Conservation organisation WWF has warned that supermarkets must step up as “time is running out” to meet its goal of halving the environmental impact of UK shopping baskets by 2030.
WWF’s latest report – titled What’s in Store for the Planet 2023 – spoke to ten of the UK’s 11 major food retailers (representing 90% of the UK grocery market) to find out how the sector is addressing its environmental impacts.
Commitment to fixing the UK’s food system is broadening, with Aldi the latest supermarket to join WWF’s Retailers’ Commitment for Nature. It has joined Co-op, Lidl, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose as part of the major cross-sector collaboration, meaning more than 70% of the UK grocery retail market is now aligned to WWF’s goal.
The report reveals that, despite much positive action, supermarkets must still close substantial gaps to meet 2030 targets across seven key areas of environmental impact: climate emissions, agriculture, diets, deforestation and conversion, marine, food waste and packaging.
The global food system currently drives some 30% of climate emissions and 60% of biodiversity loss.
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While most retailers had reported reductions in scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions, overall progress on scope 3 emissions – which account for over 95% of total supermarket emissions – remains unclear. According to the report, none of the retailers who reported on scope 3 this year are on track to achieve the 2030 targets based on current data.
Significant progress has been made on tackling deforestation within palm oil supply chains, although there has been less success with the soy supply chains, which remains just 5% deforestation free.
As such, WWF is calling on the government to implement “long overdue” due diligence regulations as it promised at Cop 26, supporting retailers to eliminate soy and palm oil deforestation from UK supply chains by 2025.
“Time is running out to fix our fragile food system, which is already creaking under the strain of climate change and nature loss, yet we remain a long way from key 2030 targets that are critical to delivering affordable, healthy, sustainably produced food into every UK shopping basket,” said WWF CEO Tanya Steele.
“The clock is ticking for people and planet but, within the food retail sector, the appetite is growing for action to shift our food system onto a sustainable footing…. We’re working with UK food retailers to deliver shared solutions to tackle the devastating impacts of our food system on our environment – we urge all UK retailers to step up to this commitment and work with businesses across their supply chains to accelerate action.”
Aldi UK CEO Giles Hurley commented: “We recognise that the food and drink sector has a huge part to play when it comes to taking steps to positively impact the environment. We’ve already made great strides in this space, but working collaboratively is crucial, which is why we’re pledging to join WWF in its efforts.
“We know sustainability matters to our customers too, so we’re always looking for ways to drive action right along the supply chain.”