Farm climate change

The UK’s biggest supermarkets have signed up to an “unprecedented” collaboration in the battle against climate change.

Hailed as one of the biggest breakthroughs yet by environmental experts, the move by eight retailers, making up around 80% of UK grocery sales, has seen them agree to a consistent set of measurement and reporting, followed by a programme of action to cut emissions.

Aldi, Co-op, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and Waitrose were announced today as the supermarkets behind the new drive, which has been launched by climate change body Wrap and WWF.

It comes with estimates that food and drink consumed in the UK is responsible for around 35% of the country’s emissions, and with a report by WWF in November revealing Scope 3 emissions from supermarket supply chains had actually got worse since the COP summit in Glasgow two years ago.

The supermarkets have agreed that this year they will establish a “common set of rules” by which they will measure and report their supply chain emissions, building on new protocols announced by Wrap in May last year, with 17 major suppliers also signing up to pilot the programme.

The work will also see supermarkets “collaborate to accelerate progress on high-impact areas for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the food sold in UK stores”.

Phase two of the plan will see action kick in to tackle the areas identified, with the supermarkets promising to put in the financial investment needed.

Wrap and WWF described today’s announcement as “an unprecedented move of pre-competitive collaboration in the highly competitive retail sector”.

They cited the array of different approaches to measuring carbon footprints as a major cause of confusion and inefficiencies in the system, claiming the absence of a consistent methodology was creating an unreasonable burden on producers and suppliers in food supply chains, generating mistrust in environmental reporting data and blocking meaningful action.

The phrase ‘pre-competitive’ was used earlier this month when the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) set out plans to allow greater collaboration among companies to tackle environmental issues, which experts claim will allow them to work together more effectively to battle climate change – although the move will also put more of a spotlight on suppliers’ environmental performance.

However, as The Grocer revealed last year, Wrap’s new protocols do not require companies to report publicly on their Scope 3 emissions.

In November, WWF reported that although Scope 1 and 2 emissions had fallen by 4% and 43% respectively since pledges made by five of the supermarkets at the Scotland summit, Scope 3 emissions from the wider supply chain – responsible for 97% of their total GHG emissions – had risen by 5%.

“The urgency of the climate crisis means that now, more than ever, industry-wide collaboration is critical to accelerate progress at the speed and scale required to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees,” said Sainsbury’s CEO Simon Roberts. “Through joining forces across our industry, driving consistency in our approach to measurement and committing to the innovation required to find new solutions, we can truly move the dial.

“As we all know, what gets measured gets done,” added Morrisons CEO David Potts. “So we welcome and support these initiatives to ensure greater consistency, more precise measurement and greater collaboration so that the UK food industry can face into critical climate challenges together.”

Wrap CEO Harriet Lamb said: “We need to transform our food and drink system if we are to stand any chance of achieving our net zero goals and mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis. This is the challenge of our generation, and it is encouraging to see the UK’s leading retailers stepping up to this challenge with focus and determination.”