Dairy cows feeding

The report also found that the roadmap is still well placed to meet the needs of future sustainability policy

Issues key to delivering the UK Dairy Roadmap’s goals are being prioritised on every corporate agenda, despite the huge challenges posed by inflation, a new report has found.

However, there are inconsistencies in the net zero targets set by retailers, which makes comparisons more difficult, according to research for the report, titled ‘How company priorities align to the UK Dairy Roadmap’, by Kite Consulting.

Written by former AHDB non-executive director Hayley Campbell-Gibbons, the report acts as a review of company priorities in the dairy supply chain, and found the industry-wide roadmap was still well placed to meet the needs of future sustainability policy.

It found that while corporate climate commitments and progress varied across the dairy and retail sectors, all had the goals of the Dairy Roadmap in mind.

“Retailers and big business are now leading the charge on addressing climate concerns, with the supply chain now being in a genuine collaboration, with big results and ambitions to boot, working towards common sustainability goals,” said Campbell-Gibbons.

But she warned many carbon reduction plans did not satisfy the Science Based Targets Initiative standards for net zero, while others were not clear in their communications, as she stressed “not all net zero targets are as good as they sound”.

Another major theme found in the review was that many retailers had switched up to 50% of their sourcing from animal to plant-based proteins in a bid to reduce their emissions, which Campbell-Gibbons described as “controversial”, given the work dairy suppliers had undertaken to reduce their own emissions.

And in this regard, Kite director John Allen told The Grocer that retailers were misguidedly assuming such a move would change consumer habits by stealth, but this was “a lot more challenging than just making a pledge to reduce [the sale of] meat and dairy”.

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He added that while meat and dairy consumption was starting to fall, this was largely due to the cost of living crisis rather than direct retailer action.

One way of improving levels of meat and dairy stocked by retailers would be to introduce a nutrients per kg of carbon measure for animal products, to demonstrate that while emissions may be higher, so was the product’s nutrient density, Allen suggested.

The final key theme ouitlined in the report was the expectation for organisations to measure and report on their carbon emissions with a growing emphasis on Scope 3.

Allen said government was implementing commitments on climate change through this reporting, but had offered little support over how to deliver it, and while it had set the policy, the “mechanism of delivery” was being carried out by the supply chain.

Such a system made it complicated to measure Scope 3 emissions effectively and consistently, though he stressed “the findings of this report should reassure the industry that the commitments made by the Dairy Roadmap and the actions of farmers and milk processors mean we are in a good place to meet them”.

“This review of company priorities highlights that sustainability is high on the agenda across the industry,” said Allen. “While consumer pressures linked to inflation and rising living costs means focus may be drawn elsewhere for a time, retailers’ climate commitments are central to their policy.”

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