10 years to save £20bn: WRAP unveils revamped Courtauld Commitment ‘to transform food industry’

The Government's Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) is today (15 March) urging Britain's food and drink firms to pledge major reductions in food waste and carbon emissions - which could deliver £20bn in savings for the UK economy - through its pioneering new Courtald Commitment 2025.

After more than a year’s wait, WRAP has finally revealed the new voluntary targets that it wants signatories from across the food and drink sector – including Tesco, M&S, Unilever, Nestlé and Heineken – to collectively agree to achieve as a way of conserving resources and tacklign climate change.

The Courtald Commitment 2025 – which builds on the success of the Courtauld 3 Commitment – brings big brands respresenting 93% of the UK food and drink market together with trade sector organisations such as the Food & Drink Federation (FDF) and WWF, on top of 24 authorities – including the London Waste and Recycling Board – which account for 42% of the UK’s entire population.

WRAP’s director of sustainable food systems Richard Swannell said: “The pressures of resource scarcity, population growth and our changing climate will have profound effects on our food supply in the coming years, and business efficiency. To safeguard UK food we need a step-change to increase sustainable food and drink production and consumption, conserve resources and combat climate change.

“Collaboration has never been more important, which is why I want to thank the businesses and organisations that have committed to taking action. This is an ambitious undertaking and having key signatories on board on day one puts us in a strong position at the start of this new era for our food industry.”

Collaboration nation

Under Courtauld 2025, brands such as Coca-Cola Enterprises, Sainsbury’s and KFC will be given the optional choice to cut food and drink waste and the associated carbon emissions by one fifth by 2025 – with approximately £4bn going directly to businesses. A water reduction target will also be agreed upon after additional consultations with the signatories.

The signatories will continue work with WRAP to drive best practice through the sector and supply chains to create a sustainable and resilient food and drink industry. Behaviour change campaigns will also be created in partnership with local authorities, in further a bid to introduce a more holistic solution to the UK’s food waste crisis.  

Commenting on the new Commitment, UK Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant said: “The Courtauld Commitment 2025 is an ambitious, long-term voluntary agreement which will bring together a diverse range of stakeholders from throughout Wales and beyond, to cut the waste and greenhouse emissions associated with food and drink. Through collaboration, innovation and shared expertise it will deliver real economic and environmental benefits for Wales as well as deliver a more sustainable Food and Drink Sector for Wales and contribute to green growth.”

Resources Minister Rory Stewart added: “Food waste – at any stage from the farm to the house – is something we should avoid. It wastes precious water and resources. ‎So I am delighted that this great group of food and drink companies has come together with WRAP to reduce our food waste. Under the last framework we have already reduced food waste in the supply chain by 10%. And this teamwork and leadership should allow us to go much further.”

It is hoped that the pledges set out in the new Courtald Commitment 2025 will see businesses their part in putting the UK on track to deliver key objectives in place for both COP21 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Wasting away

The issue of UK food waste spent the end of 2015 in the public spotlight after TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s high profile ‘War on Waste’ series lamented the amount of unnecessary food being thrown away by British supermarkets. Retailers have also been the subject of public campaigns and demonstrations aimed at pressuring the stores to increase their waste reduction efforts.

A number of food re-distribution programmes have been launched by the supermarkets in an effort to offer up free meals from surplus food stock, and new ‘wonky veg’ product lines have been launched, contributing to a total reduction in food waste of 20,000 tonnes in the space of a year. 

According to WRAP estimates, 15 million tonnes of food is wasted in the UK each year, comparing to around 41 million tonnes of food that is purchased – meaning that the amount of food wasted throughout the supply chain is equivalent to around a third of that purchased. 

Last month, FareShare director of food Mark Varney told edie he believes the increasing focus on retailers’ approach to food waste is an “unnecessary distraction” away from a more pressing issue: the lack of fiscal and financial incentives for suppliers and manufacturers to tackle the problem.

Liz Goodwin at edie Live 2016

WRAP chief executive Liz Goodwin will be among the expert speakers at the edie Live 2016 exhibition in May. In a session focused on new business models within the edie Leaders Theatre, Goodwin will be discussing WRAP’s recent partnership with Argos in greater detail in what will be one of her last circular economy speeches ahead of her departure from WRAP in June.  

The edie Live conference and seminar programme, produced by the edie editorial team, provides visitors with practical insights to make businesses more sustainable. Find out more and register to attend here.

 Q&A with WRAP’s outgoing chief executive Liz Goodwin 

Matt Mace

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