A Better Basket – our plan for climate action
24 March 2021
The global food system is one of the world’s largest sources of greenhouse gases.
Food production is linked to 70% of biodiversity loss on land, and globally, emissions from food waste are higher than from any country on earth, except for US and China.
As populations grow, more pressure will be placed on the climate and our planet’s finite resources.
Having recently joined Tesco, I’m acutely aware of the food industry’s responsibility to make lasting positive change. By finding ways to feed our growing population more sustainably – using less land and fewer natural resources – we can tackle climate change, improve the health of our planet and improve our own health as well.
We’re playing our part by creating a better basket for our customers and the planet. We’re doing that by driving improvements and innovation at every point in our value chain, first in our own operations, then in our supply chain and for our customers. Our plan for climate action focuses on the areas where we can make the biggest difference – energy, transport, waste, food production and diets.
But no one business can tackle climate change alone. It will take collective action to drive transformational change, turning net zero from ambition to reality.
Accelerating our net zero climate ambition
Our net zero journey began in 2006 with our first carbon reduction targets. In 2009, we became the first business globally to commit to become a zero-carbon business by 2050. In 2017, we went further, committing to science-based climate targets on a 1.5-degree trajectory. Last year, we committed to go faster and reach our net zero climate target in the UK by 2035, fifteen years early.
And we continue to challenge ourselves to lead, setting ourselves clear goals to address emissions from energy, transport and food production, reduce waste and help improve customers’ diets. This includes partnering with WWF to halve the environmental impact of food, and mobilising our biggest suppliers to reduce food waste in their operations.
Tackling emissions from energy and transport
We can make the most immediate change in our own operations across our biggest emissions sources – energy, refrigeration and transport.
We’re doing this in two ways. First, we’ve invested £900m since 2006, in energy and refrigeration efficiency improvements. These improvements are vital on the journey to net zero, but will not be enough on their own to get us on a 1.5 degree trajectory. That’s why we’re also making some transformational changes across our operations:
- We already use 100% renewable electricity in the UK and Europe, from green certificates, Power Purchase Agreements and on-site generation. We will switch to renewable energy across all our operations by 2030.
- We’ve partnered with renewable energy investors to launch new renewable power generation projects, creating additional UK solar and wind farms. Between now and 2030, we will continually increase the proportion of our electricity from these new projects.
- We’ve launched our first fleet of electric home delivery vans and will switch to a fully electric delivery fleet by 2028.
- We’re increasing the UK’s electric vehicle charging network by 14% by installing 2,400 electric vehicle charging points across our UK stores.
Through a combination of efficiency improvements and switch to low-carbon innovation, we delivered a 50% absolute emissions reduction last year on a 2015 baseline, beating our 2020 science-based target of 35%.
Taking action to cut waste
We’re taking action to reduce packaging and food waste in our own operations, and we’re also supporting customers to reduce the amount wasted at home.
- We are working towards a closed loop system for packaging where nothing goes to waste. On plastics, we are committed to Remove, Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.
- We have removed over 1 billion pieces of plastic and we work with Loop to bring customers their favourite products in reusable packaging.
- We are committed that no edible food goes to waste in our UK operation. Together with our suppliers, we have saved 200,000 tonnes of food from going to waste since 2013. We’ve worked with FareShare to donate over 100m surplus meals to local charities since 2012.
Making sustainable diets easier
We also want to help our customers to eat more sustainably, in a way that is good for their health and the climate. Meat production accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gases, which is why we are developing our plant-based ranges, Wicked Kitchen and Plant Chef, and committing to increase the sale of plant-based meat alternatives by 300% by 2025.
Supporting sustainable food production
Tackling supply chain emissions is incredibly important. Emissions from agriculture and manufacturing are over five times bigger than in our own operations.
In 2017, we set science-based targets for our supply chain, set on a 2-degree trajectory. Last year our 70 biggest suppliers reported a 12% reduction in manufacturing emissions, exceeding our science-based target of a 7% reduction.
Our 2030 targets are at least a 35% reduction in Manufacturing emissions and 15% in Agriculture emissions. To achieve these, we are helping our suppliers to deliver their own carbon reduction strategies.
A lot of progress can be made through efficiency improvements but we cannot meet future targets unless we also innovate. So we’re working with suppliers to trial and scale technologies targeting our biggest agriculture emissions sources; such as low carbon fertiliser, methane-reducing feed, and alternative feeds such as insect protein.
There’s more to do and we will be helping our suppliers to mobilise to achieve our science-based emissions reduction targets.
In this defining decade for climate action, food companies like ours can make a real difference. Now is the time to accelerate our collective actions to tackle the biggest challenge of our lifetime.