The report revealed mixed progress on deforestation

Supermarket supply chain emissions have gone up since a pledge at last year’s COP summit to halve the environmental impact of food shopping by 2030.

A report by WWF, billed as the most comprehensive study to date of the food sector’s contribution to climate change, found Scope 3 emissions among retailers reporting in the past year had risen by 5%.

Although Scope 1 and 2 emissions had fallen by 4% and 43% respectively, the report said the vast majority (97%) of the greenhouse gas emissions of participating retailers were Scope 3, from supply chains.

Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Co-op, and M&S, who all signed the landmark pledges at the gathering in Glasgow a year ago, today promised to “accelerate” their measures, including fast-forwarding progress on a system of consistent measurement of Scope 3 emissions.

WWF has urged other supermarkets to sign up to its pledges.

The report found retailers had a “long road ahead” if they were to hit their targets.

The targets also include making at least 50% of whole produce and grains certified or covered by a robust environmental scheme, improving sourcing of meat, dairy and eggs, including as ingredients, and ensuring 50% of fresh food is sourced from areas of sustainable water management and agricultural emissions lowered in line with 1.5°C ‘science-based’ climate change targets.

“While there have already been strong commitments and good progress made on Scope 2, we are still near the beginning of the journey on climate, particularly when it comes to Scope 3 emissions,” says today’s report.

“Action is needed across each stage of the food value chain, backed up by strong and clear policy from government, if emissions are to reduce at the pace required.”

Earlier this year, Wrap announced it was working on an industry-wide measurement and reporting protocol for retailers, suppliers and hospitality companies, amid fears a confusing myriad different systems used by companies was hindering progress. However, the initiative is due to stop short of a commitment to mandatory reporting.

Today’s report also reveals supermarkets have a long way to go to hit a pledge of plant-based foods representing 50% of protein sales by 2030, with the figure currently at 9%.

WWF said the supermarkets needed to increase shelf space for plant-based products and put them in more prominent positions, as well as move animal-based products to lower shelves and reduce their proportion of shelf space.

It has called on the government to set reduction targets for meat, dairy and egg consumption and to rewrite the Eatwell Plate guidance to consider sustainability of products, which The Grocer revealed in June was being looked at by government health experts.

Today’s report also revealed mixed progress on reducing deforestation, with 62% of palm oil from supply chains verified deforestation and conversion free, but only 6% of soy, commonly used as animal feed for chicken and pigs.

“Nature is in freefall, and we know 60% of global biodiversity loss and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the food system,” said WWF CEO Tanya Steele. “We welcome the transparency from the supermarkets that shared their environmental data with WWF.

“Shoppers want to know that their purchases are not contributing to the destruction of our planet, so we urge other supermarkets to join the five who have committed to our goal to halve the environmental impact of our food shopping by 2030.”

In a joint statement, Co-op CEO Shirine Khoury-Haq, M&S CEO Stuart Machin, Sainsbury’s CEO Simon Roberts, Tesco CEO Ken Murphy and Waitrose executive director James Bailey said: “WWF’s findings leave no doubt of the scale of the task we collectively agreed to undertake when it comes to improving our food supply chains and enabling a sustainable shopping experience for our customers.

“We restate our commitment to work with WWF, our customers, suppliers, and the UK government to halve the environmental impact of UK shopping baskets by 2030. We believe that this goal is achievable and is vital for the future of nature, our planet, our businesses and, crucially, our customers.”