Whether it’s our fresh meat and dairy, fruit and vegetables, or the ingredients which go into our prepared meals and grocery products, all have their origins on farms around the world.
The environmental impacts from agriculture can be considerable. Agriculture accounts for over 60% of Tesco’s greenhouse gas emissions and 97% of water use. A third of the soil used for farming globally is already experiencing some level of degradation.
We aim to sustainably source our agricultural products and our sustainable agriculture agenda aims to promote food production that is compatible with protecting water resources, biodiversity, climate and soil health.
We expect all our largest suppliers to have their own sustainable agriculture strategies to address their most material farm-level impacts and risks, and we work collaboratively with them to share best practice and build farm-level improvement/management plans.
Agriculture accounts for over 60% of Tesco’s greenhouse gas emissions. We have set science-based targets for manufacturing and agricultural supply chains, aligned to the Paris Agreement’s 2°C global warming trajectory and have a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by 15% by 2030.
In 2016, our key agricultural suppliers used the Cool Farm Tool to measure emissions from over 80 farms in the UK and Africa, covering 11 different vegetable products. Another example is our Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group (TSDG), whose 800 farms receive a bespoke carbon assessment from an expert consultancy. This kind of work enables us to identify emissions hotspots and then drive forward the particular interventions which will most effectively reduce a farm’s emissions, such as optimised application of nitrogen fertiliser, increased animal health, energy efficiency and building soil organic matter.
Our focus on soil health recognises that healthy soil is essential for farming and food production. Loss of top soil (soil erosion) reduces the fertility of agricultural land, thereby adversely impacting crop production. While some soil erosion occurs naturally, it can be rapidly accelerated by unsustainable farming practices. Addressing soil health is therefore crucial to food security and sustainable farming.
One way to protect soil structure and reduce soil erosion is through cover cropping, which can form part of crop rotation, especially in the production of root vegetables. In 2018, through the Tesco Sustainable Farming Group, we started work with Branston, our biggest potato supplier, on a scheme to expand the use of cover crops by potato growers incentivised through subsidised cover crop seed mixes. In 2019, uptake of the scheme more than doubled from 417 hectares in 2018 to 907 hectares. That’s a potential addition of around 27,000 tonnes of biomass incorporated back into our farmers’ fields, helping to protect the soil.
Our agricultural and manufacturing supply chains depend on access to water for the production of our food and non-food products. Freshwater bodies (such as lakes, rivers and aquifers) are also essential for nature, wildlife and human communities. It is therefore vital that wherever our products are made, our supply chain operates in a way that safeguards this valuable resource for the future. This stewardship of water resources means using water more efficiently (especially in locations of water scarcity) and protecting water quality.
Our aim is to be British agriculture’s most trusted partner, helping to secure the future of farming, food and fisheries. We work in partnership with over 15,000 suppliers and producers to offer quality, healthy and sustainable products at affordable prices. Tesco supports a food and farming sector that generates value right through the supply chain and delivers food for all.