UK food makers surpass CO₂ reduction targets 5 years early, set new goals
2021 marks five years since the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which represents manufacturers in the UK, launched its Ambition 2025 project.
Ambition 2025 challenges FDF members to achieve sustainability targets across a range of areas, including carbon, food waste, packaging, and water.
Yesterday (23 February), the membership organisation released its 2020 progress report, revealing ‘exceptional progress’ in some areas, and prompting a revaluation of its sustainability targets.
“We felt we were going to achieve some of our targets early, notably on CO₂ emissions, so it needed reviewing,” explained Skye Oudemans, Sustainability Executive at FDF, during the report launch.
“We also wanted to make sure that we were reflecting policy development – notably the EU exit, net-zero legislation, and the ongoing packaging and waste reform project.”
The FDF also reviewed its targets to ensure they align with global and national processes and frameworks, she continued, such as the National Food Strategy and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Overachieving CO₂ targets
Back in 2016, the FDF – which counts Coca-Cola Great Britain, Danone Holdings, General Mills UK, and Nestlé UK amongst its members – challenged food and beverage companies to achieve a 55% absolute reduction in CO₂ emissions by 2025.
In its most recent progress report, the FDF was pleased to note its members had already exceeded this target – achieving a 55.5% reduction against a 1990 baseline.
As a result, the membership association has revised its CO₂ ambition. UK food and drink manufacturers are now aiming to achieve a 60% absolute reduction in emissions by 2025.
“This is an acknowledgement of the pathway towards more science-based targets, which we’ll be looking to work on with [circular economy charity] WRAP and others in due course,” explained FDF’s Head of Energy and Climate Change Policy Emma Piercy.
“In looking at a wider aspect around net-zero, this year’s work programme is going to be based on the recommendations that come from the net-zero narrative report. A key one of those will be the development of a roadmap on net-zero for the sector,” said the energy and climate change chief. “Specifically, we will be developing this roadmap with a view to publishing at [UN Climate Change Conference] COP26.”
Food waste and packaging
Food waste is also a key focus area for the FDF, especially given the UN FAO’s well-known estimation that roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally.
When Ambition 2025 first launched, its objectives were to send zero waste to landfill from members’ direct operations and to reduce food waste across the supply chain, from farm to fork.
In the 2020 report, the FDF noted it had significantly contributed to the UK Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, with 180,000t of food saved from becoming waste in 2019 compared to 2018.
Consequently, the FDF has revised its ambition: it now aims to reduce food waste across members’ own direct operations and their supply chains by adopting the ‘Target, Measure, Act’ approach of the UK Food Waste Reduction Roadmap and contribute to the UN SDG 12.4 food waste reduction target.
The membership body has also reviewed its packaging and plastics ambition. The original goal was to minimise the impact of used packaging associated with food and drink products and to encourage innovation in packaging technology and design that contributes to overall product sustainability, FDF Senior Policy Manager David Bellamy explained.
Since this time, FDF says it has continued to build relationships with ‘key stakeholders’ and with UK Governments, including through engagement on various consultations – notably the Plastics Tax. It also undertook advocacy on the Packaging Recovery Notes (PRN) cost crises, supported the UK Plastics Pact, and launched new guidelines on using recycled content in plastic packaging applications.
Its revised ambition is to deliver improved environmental outcomes relating to the production, use, and disposal of food and drink packaging in the UK – with particular focus on plastic packaging, ‘whilst recognising its essential protective functionality’.
Water and transport
Water is a key part of the FDF’s ambition because its members ‘recognise it is important for sustainable production’, explained Sustainability Executive Emma Mansbridge.
“With increasing demand for water and greater water scarcity as a result of climate change, they really recognise it as a sound business decision to look at using water more efficiently.”
Since the launch of the ambition, reporting FDF members have reduced their absolute consumption by 41.5%. They have also reduced the amount of water consumed per tonne of product by 44.5%.
“We have one more reporting year of our quantitative target left, and following this we will move to our revised ambition,” said Mansbrigde.
The revised ambition will see FDF members support and contribute to the Courtauld 2025 Water Ambition. “The Water Ambition commits signatory businesses to monitor water uses in their own operations, improve efficiency and participate in collective action projects to improve the quality and availability of water in key sourcing areas by 2025,” she explained.
Concerning transport, Mansbridge said the importance of reducing the environmental impact of transport – in terms of both carbon intensity and air quality – has ‘long been recognised’ as a pillar of the FDF’s Ambition 2025 programme.
“Our members have been committed to making progress in both their own fleet operations and by third-party hauliers,” she explained. “We encourage them to embed a ‘fewer and friendlier food miles’ approach through the application of our 10-point checklist for greener transport.”
The checklist includes maximising vehicle loading, ensuring a high ratio of trailers to tractors, collaboration to reduce empty running, and the use of alternative fuels.
Moving ahead, the ambition is to support and contribute to the Government’s Road to Zero strategy. “The Government published its Road to Zero strategy in July 2018 and set out 46 policies to achieve long-term ambitions to put the UK at the forefront of design and manufacturing of zero emission vehicles,” Mansbridge told delegates, adding that the Government is also focused on reducing HTV greenhouse gas emissions and on decarbonising the transport sector.
“Going forward, the FDF will engage with its members and other stakeholders such as Logistics UK to contribute to and support Government in their ambition. As part of this process, we will also seek to review our 10-point checklist for greener transport, ensuring that it remains fit for purpose and still reflects the priorities of our members.”