UK retailer Tesco has announced that the environmental impact of some of the UK’s most popular foods will be measured and, for the first time, tracked following the launch of the Tesco and WWF Sustainable Basket Metric.
The Metric will track the environmental impact of a sample of some of the most regularly purchased foods against key sustainability criteria, including climate change, deforestation and food and packaging waste.
“At Tesco we want to provide customers with good quality, affordable food that is produced in a sustainable way,” says Dave Lewis, Tesco CEO. “To help us achieve this we’ve partnered with WWF with the goal of halving the environmental impact of the average UK shopping basket.”
Tesco and WWF will run a first full assessment against the metric in early 2020 and publish the results. They will also then be able to confirm a date by which they believe the target of halving the impact of the average UK shopping basket can be reached, with 2030 a potential ambition.
The two organisations, which launched a ground-breaking partnership last year, are working together on a number of sustainability projects which will contribute to their aim, including soil health and water usage programmes in UK agriculture, and working towards the production of zero-deforestation commodities such as soy in Tesco’s supply chains.
“Throughout our partnership, we’ll be carrying out industry-leading work to make food production more sustainable, including sourcing commodities like soy and palm oil from verified zero-deforestation areas, and improving soil health and water usage on farms in the UK,” Lewis said. “Working together we can help to ensure the natural environment is protected for future generations.”
“Food production is at the core of many of the environmental crises facing our planet – it’s the leading cause of tropical deforestation and is responsible for 24 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases,” WWF UK CEO, Tanya Steele said: “The launch of the Sustainable Basket Metric will enable Tesco to fully understand the end-to-end sustainability impact of some of the most popular foods, and we’re proud to have worked with them to create it. We want other retailers to take a similar approach and come together to ensure a more sustainable approach to food production.”
Tesco has committed to updating on its progress towards its aim of a 50% reduction in the environmental impact of the average UK shopping basket in its annual Little Helps Plan report.
How the basket metric works: Each product’s impact will be tracked against a number of relevant environmental criteria. The seven criteria have been selected due to their scope and global impact; their irreversibility and urgency; and their direct impact on issues such as climate change.
While all seven criteria are critical to making the average UK shopping basket more sustainable, some have a greater environmental impact than others, so they have been weighted accordingly.
- Climate change (25%)
- Deforestation (20%)
- Sustainable diets (15%)
- Sustainable agriculture (12%)
- Marine sustainability (10%)
- Food waste (10%)
- Packaging waste (8%)
Each criteria will include a number of sub-metrics. For instance, Sustainable Agriculture will include the following:
- % of farmers taking robust action to improve soil health (e.g. cover crops, low impact tillage;
- % of farmers who are taking robust action to increase biodiversity and pollinators (e.g. wildflowers, hedgerows, Integrated Pest Management);
- % of fresh produce from regions with sustainable water management;
- % of key sourcing regions with clear plan to address agri-plastic pollution.
For each of the metrics, we will establish both a baseline e.g. for 2018, the year of the partnership launch, and a long-term target. In some cases, targets have already been set e.g. food waste, carbon reduction, packaging. Progress towards meeting each target will be multiplied by a percentage weighting. For example:
- One of the basket metrics is as follows: % of South American soy from verified zero-deforestation areas.
- The metric currently has a weighting of 12%.
- When we achieve our target that 100% of South American soy is from deforestation-free areas, we would therefore be 12% of the way towards halving the environmental impact of the average basket.
The sum of all the metrics will indicate our overall progress towards halving the environmental impact at any given moment in time.
Tesco plans to use the Sustainable Basket Metric across more of its products, with the criteria applicable to a wide range of products not included in the basket. For example, the criteria related to lettuce, such as sustainable agriculture and food waste – and any work to tackle them, will also relate to other similar vegetables such as spinach, chard and other salad leaves.