With only four months until COP26, the UK has taken a step forward in reducing the impact food has on the natural world with a number of changes to its Courtauld Commitment.
The voluntary agreement is already helping the UK food and drink sector to deliver against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3 to halve food waste.
It will now also be central in achieving and monitoring progress towards Net Zero ambitions and convening action on water stewardship in at-risk food sourcing locations.
The Commitment contains the first industry-wide collaborative action towards a 50% absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions associated with food and drink consumed in the UK by 2030 – a critical milestone towards longer term net zero objectives.
A focus on measuring carbon along the entire food chain and acting on the results is being driven by environmental charity WRAP.
The charity delivers the Courtauld Commitment, and brought together more than 80 businesses, trade bodies, NGOs, government departments and other organisations to set the inspiring new GHG targets through the practical framework of the Courtauld Commitment.
The Courtauld Commitment now aligns with the wider global target on food waste reduction under the UN’s SDG 12.3. To reflect this synergy more clearly, the agreement has become the ‘Courtauld Commitment 2030’.
The Courtauld Commitment 2025 launched in 2015 and was then a 10-year programme, to complete in 2025.
Today, the agreement has strong membership with more than 90% of UK food retail as well as food manufacturers, the hospitality and food service sector, farmers and growers, redistributors and charities, trade bodies, local authorities and groups and businesses from across the lifecycle of food.
The core Courtauld Commitment targets have been recast to reflect the extension and expansion of the agreement:
‘I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved under the Courtauld Commitment 2025 during the last five years. But with COP26 fast approaching, the new Courtauld Commitment 2030 has been refreshed to build on this success and meet newer demands of climate action head on.
‘Courtauld has always addressed the most significant sustainability challenges that the sector faces – carbon reduction, improved water stewardship and food waste. Climate change is the biggest threat we all face, and fixing food is vital. I believe Courtauld has never been more important as only fundamental change can reset our fragile global food system into a sustainable model that will feed us in the future, and cut greenhouse gas emissions towards Net Zero.’
Extending the Courtauld food waste prevention target to 2030, and aligning it with the global target to halve food waste, will mean that UK food waste will be 800,000 tonnes lower in 2030 compared with 2025, saving food worth £2.4 billion a year – the equivalent of 1.9 billion meals – by 2030.
Between 2025 and 2030 the extended and more ambitious food waste target will result in 2,600,000 tonnes (2.6 million tonnes) of food waste being avoided over the five-year period, saving £8 billion of food – the equivalent of 6.2 billion meals – from being wasted.
‘Our food and drink industry has a hugely important role to play in addressing the urgent challenges of climate change and sustainability.
‘The UK is a world leader in combating food waste, which fell by 480,000 tonnes between 2015 and 2018. But we must go further; not only by stopping more food being chucked away needlessly, but also by slashing the resources consumed by the sector, to help us achieve Net Zero.
‘The Courtauld agreement has been a great success in bringing organisations together to create a more sustainable industry, and these new, far-reaching goals for 2030 will take this to the next level as we head into COP26.’