The CEOs of five major UK supermarkets have committed to slash their impact across climate, deforestation and nature and lead the way for the whole food retail sector to halve its overall impact on the natural world by 2030, as tracked by WWF.

Joining forces for the first time, they are today urging the rest of the sector, from major brands, to manufacturers, to commodity traders and governments to take action for nature and climate to help achieve this ambition.

These supermarkets alone reach more than 50% of UK food shoppers so today’s commitment will help millions of UK families make their weekly shop greener and protect vital landscapes and species around the world.

The food we produce and the food we buy is responsible for 60% of global nature loss and globally contributes over a third of total greenhouse gas emissions – nearly 19 times that of the commercial airline industry.

Tanya Steele, WWF’s Chief Executive said: “We can’t tackle climate change and keep global temperature rise to 1.5oC without halting nature loss – and we can’t save nature without changing what’s on our supermarket shelves.”

In signing WWF’s Retailers’ Commitment for Nature, the leaders of Co-op, M&S Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose agreed: ‘As CEOs of leading UK food retailers, we recognise that a future without nature is a future without food. By 2030 we collectively need to halt the loss of nature.’

The steps these supermarkets are taking will feed into WWF’s annual assessment that will track the food retail sector’s overall progress, including alignment with government ambitions to end deforestation and ecosystem destruction in key UK supply chains. This is an important step as the majority of palm oil (89%) and soy (65%) imported to the UK comes from countries with high deforestation and habitat destruction rates.

WWF’s Retailers’ Commitment for Nature builds on work started by WWF with Tesco to reduce environmental impacts of food production across key areas.

Today’s commitment is backed by a WWF blueprint that outlines over 100 steps that all food retailers can take to protect nature and has the potential to transform our food system and regenerate our forests, rivers and seas.

Tanya Steele, WWF’s Chief Executive said: “Food production is one of the biggest threats to our planet and we will only tackle the climate and nature emergency if food retailers play their part.

“The promises these CEOs have made are game changing and we hope other food retailers will follow in their footsteps so that every shopper can be confident that the products they buy aren’t fuelling the climate crisis and pushing precious wildlife closer to the brink.”

Steve Murrells, CEO of Co-op Group, said: “The food industry is central in co-operating for a fairer, more responsible world to reduce the negative impact of our operations on the environment. Collectively we are facing huge challenges and the future of food globally is at risk if we don’t act together to drive positive change. 

“This year, we unveiled our comprehensive Ten-Point Climate Plan to address our impacts across our business and beyond, but no business can solve this crisis alone. We all have a part to play which is why we’re signing up to the WWF aim. As a sector we need to co-operate and take bold action to tackle climate change, deforestation and the impact on natural habitats to ultimately help people shop and live greener.”

Stuart Machin, M&S Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director of M&S Food said: “The scale of the climate challenge is bigger than ever so it is imperative that we take collective action now to transform the global food industry in a way that protects and restores nature whilst rapidly reducing greenhouse emissions.

“At M&S, caring about the impact we have on the world around us is part of who we are, which is why we’ve committed to becoming a fully net zero business by 2040. As part of that, we have set out that by 2025, none of our palm oil and soy sourcing leads to deforestation, we will reduce plastic food packaging by 30% by 2027 and cut food waste in half by 2030.

“We look forward to working with the WWF and other signatories to deliver impactful change at scale that protects our planet and its natural resources for future generations.”

Simon Roberts, Sainsbury’s CEO said: “This week, COP26 has brought the world together to accelerate action on the climate crisis and, as Principal Supermarket Partner and a business with a global supply base, we know we need to help lead the way. I’m proud of the work we’ve done in setting ambitious targets and delivering against them. The urgency of the climate crisis means that we now need to move faster and we can only achieve this through collaboration. We join the WWF and our fellow retailers in calling on more food businesses to step up to the plate to help us secure the planet for the generations to come.”

Ken Murphy, Tesco CEO said: “Tackling the impact the food system has on our planet will require transformational change and collaboration across the industry. At Tesco we’ve already achieved a huge amount, including using 100% renewable electricity across our own operations in the UK and Europe, introducing a wide range of plant-based products for our customers, removing over 1 billion pieces of plastic, reducing food waste in our operations by more than 40%, and trialling ground-breaking innovations in our agricultural supply chains to cut emissions, such as the use of insect protein as animal feed. We’ve also set ambitious targets of achieving net zero across our own operations by 2035, and across our total emissions footprint, including our supply chains and products, by 2050.”

“It’s great to see fellow food retailers coming together and committing to building on the work Tesco and WWF initiated to halve the environmental impact of UK baskets. We’re calling on more food businesses to play their part and join us in transforming the food system for the good of the planet.”

James Bailey, Waitrose’s Executive Director said: “We’re delighted to support WWF’s Retailers’ Commitment for Nature. Food production has had a significant impact on our planet and its natural resources for decades – creating biodiversity loss and contributing to a climate emergency that all businesses, even competing ones, need to come together to tackle.

“Not only must we work together, we must all take meaningful action that empower our customers to live greener lifestyles. This is why we have committed to setting science based targets to do our part in keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 ºC. We have also committed to source our key raw materials for our own label products from sustainable sources by 2025, collaborating to tackle deforestation in palm oil and soy; to halve food waste across our supply chain by 2030; and to ensure our UK farm supplier network is net zero by 2035. These are just some of the measures we are taking to do our part and we must strive to do all we can to enable nature and biodiversity to thrive again.”


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