The Co-op is aiming to be the first supermarket to sell fully carbon neutral own brand food and drink by 2025.
The move, which the society is calling a world-first by a major supermarket operator, is part of a new 10-point climate plan to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2040.
The Co-op said that as of last month it had become carbon neutral across is food, funeralcare, insurance and power operations, including its 2,600 food stores and was now able to move on to the products it sells.
The society said it was also looking to remove the barriers for shoppers wishing to make more sustainable food choices, including price. It has price-matched its plant-based Gro range against equivalent meat products.
Co-op has invested £1.7m in reducing the price of 29 fresh, chilled and ambient vegan products.
Some products have been reduced by more than 50% such as the Gro vegan sausages reduced from £3 to £1.45 and Gro meat-free burger reduced from £3 to £1.35.
The wider 10-point plan also includes plans to make its entire 200-strong home delivery fleet electric, end the use of fossil fuel heating, lower farm agricultural emissions, cut packaging and reduce impacts from soy in animal feed.
It will also allow suppliers access to its Co-op Power energy buying arm in a bid to help them “source low-cost energy in an ethical, sustainable way”.
Co-op said it would report annually on its progress and has called on government to make it mandatory for all businesses to report their full end-to-end greenhouse gas emissions.
It is also asking government to reaffirm its target of 0.7% of gross national income to international aid and development, including for investment in climate resilience and greater transparency and penalties to prevent further deforestation, particularly for the production of soy.
Co-op Food CEO Jo Whitfield has agreed to link her pay to achieving the targets, which are endorsed by the Science Based Targets initiative.
“We are facing a monumental climate change crisis entirely of our own making,” she said. “We must recognise that we are in part responsible and that we have to do more and quicker.
“Today, we are sharing the action we are taking, unveiling a comprehensive plan rooted in science. Emissions from our operations and our own-brand products are where we have the greatest responsibility and can make the biggest difference.
“Now when our members buy Co-op branded products and services we give local causes a helping hand and we’ll be addressing the urgent need to tackle the climate crisis. Funding schemes worldwide to tackle carbon emissions and supporting reforestation in the UK.”
Sarah Wakefield, head of food transformation at WWF-UK, said: “With nature in freefall and our climate in crisis, we need urgent action if we are to stand a chance of protecting our one shared home. We welcome this climate plan from Co-op and encourage all businesses to align with 1.5°C climate targets and support deforestation-free supply chains that do not contribute to the destruction of nature at home or overseas.”
The Co-op’s 10-point climate plan
Make long-term changes to how we do business
We will be a net zero business by 2040, for both our operations and for our products.
Set clear short-term milestones
We will reduce the impact of our operations by 50% and our products by 11%, both by 2025, in line with climate science.
Rapidly reduce carbon from our operations and products
We will take clear, practical steps to reduce carbon from running our business and the products we sell, reporting progress publicly.
Compensate for our climate impact
We will take responsibility for our ongoing emissions – our operations will be carbon neutral from 2021 and our own-brand products by 2025.
Make lower carbon choices easier for customers
We’ll support our customers and members to move to lower carbon lifestyles, starting by price-matching between our Co-op own-brand plant-based and meat or dairy-based equivalent.
Direct finance towards reducing carbon
We will align our finance, including carbon offsets and pension funds, to support lower carbon investments.
Help suppliers on the climate change front line
We’ll support farmers, producers and communities to transition fairly to a low carbon future.
Campaign for climate action
We will be advocating with government to press for the necessary systemic change, including a call for greater climate impact disclosure and support for the most vulnerable.
Co-operate for change at scale
We will actively work together across our sectors, sharing our plans and solutions, seeking to align rather than compete.
Make our climate plan a priority
Underpinning these goals, we are linking the pay of our Food CEO to achieving our carbon reduction targets.