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Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

The issues

Global demand on natural resources has reached a critical level, and public engagement with climate change and environmental protection has never been so high.

150 Mt carbon dioxide equivalents

The total carbon footprint of food consumed in the UK. This is equivalent to 30% of the UK’s territorial greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Around 7.1 Mt of CO2e reductions have been delivered across the food and drink system to date. Achieving the Courtauld Commitment 2030 food waste target would result in a further c.4 Mt of avoided GHG emissions. This, together with ongoing decarbonisation, will help us to achieve the 20% GHG reduction target.

However, the climate is now widely recognised as the most important issue of our time, and there is a need to go further and faster.  

Following recommendations by the Committee on Climate Change, the UK government has set a target to bring all GHG emissions to net zero* by 2050. Wales has an ambition to achieve net zero by 2050 and Scotland is committed to becoming a net zero society by 2045.

To meet global and corporate climate objectives, customers and investors are also increasingly requiring businesses to measure and report information on their GHG emissions and the actions being taken to reduce them.

'A company that communicates its climate resiliency to its investors will have a competitive advantage over those that don’t.' Mary Schapiro, Vice Chair for Global Public Policy at Bloomberg LP, June 2019

UK Food System GHG Emissions

Our new research shows the total UK food & drink consumption footprint and pathway to a 50% reduction by 2030. 

  • How food system greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have changed from 2015 to 2019.
  • Where GHG emissions ‘hotspots’ remain in the UK food system (including in supply chains overseas).
  • Priority areas for action in the short term to help achieve the targeted reduction by 2030.


The Courtauld Commitment 2030

The Courtauld Commitment 2030 is WRAP's flagship voluntary agreement for UK food and drink. The Courtauld Commitment 2030 has the following target for GHG emissions:

To deliver a 50% absolute reduction in GHG emissions associated with food and drink consumed in the UK by 2030 (against a 2015 baseline).

This is aligned to a 1.5oC pathway and an important milestone towards meeting wider food sector targets for net zero by 2040 (e.g. within the British Retail Consortium’s Climate Roadmap).

Interested in joining the Courtauld Commitment 2030? Contact the WRAP team.

What can my organisation do?

1) Set a TARGET to reduce emissions. Many leading food and drink businesses are responding to the climate crisis by developed ‘science-based’ targets to reduce GHG emissions from their own operations, and from the products they sell.   

2) MEASURE:  Establishing a baseline of your GHG emissions and measuring them over time is a critical step to know your levels of exposure; where to focus reduction efforts - and to know that actions taken are having the right effect.

Different ‘scopes’ of GHG measurement have been defined by the GHG Protocol (for reporting purposes), and are commonly used terms.

  • Scopes 1 and 2 includes any GHGs that are emitted directly in your own operations (e.g. process emissions, fuel for heating/transport, refrigerant gases), or through electricity consumed. There are very well defined accounting standards for these and many food and drink businesses will already be effectively measuring energy and GHG emissions within their own operations, and have realised cost savings as a result.
  • Scope 3 includes any GHG emitted in the production and supply of the raw materials, ingredients, products, and packaging that you procure; as well as the use of those products and management of any wastes.

For most food and drink business, supply chain (scope 3) emissions will be much higher than direct (scope 1 and 2) emissions. This makes measuring scope 3 emissions critical, but it is a much more challenging task because of the complexity of supply chains, and because there are no well-defined and collectively agreed approaches. A new Courtauld 2030 Working Group is seeking to help address this challenge.

GHG Protocol
Ratio of supply chain to direct emissions for different types of buisiness

3) ACT to reduce emissions. Many food and drink businesses are already taking action to reduce scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions across their own operations, and there are good sources of information and advice to help them do so.

Reducing scope 3 emissions (which mostly arise during the production of raw materials) is a much more daunting challenge. With shared supply chains for these raw materials, it makes sense to work together on this challenge, and working with customers, suppliers, peers and industry experts through the Courtauld Commitment 2030 Supply Chain GHG Working Group provides means to do so.

What is WRAP doing?

WRAP has convened a Working Group under the Courtauld Commitment 2030 to tackle supply chain GHG emissions; identify the challenges faced; and to deliver collaborative solutions.

Having identified that many food and drink businesses face the same challenges in how to robustly track and deliver against supply chain GHG targets, and that working in silos has created a barrier to progress, WRAP has convened a forum bringing together different parts of the supply chain to consider what is needed to help the whole industry move forward faster. Working together with Courtauld 2030 signatories, we are focussing on the following:

  1. Harmonising supplier 'asks' on GHG measurement and reporting.
  2. Supporting the drive for reduction in UK agricultural emissions.
  3. Tackling overseas production emissions.
  4. Identifying and signposting action groups on key topics.
Interested in joining the Courtauld Commitment 2030? Contact the team.

Meat in a Net Zero world

'The UK meat industry is collectively working towards a joint vision of improved resource efficiency from farm to fork. We aim to make the UK meat industry a world-leading example of efficient and sustainable meat production and supply.'

Find out more

Reducing food waste

The GHG emissions associated with producing the c.480,000 tonnes less food and drink wasted annually in 2018 are around 1.6 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalents. WRAP works across the supply chain and with citizens to reduce this.

Reducing food waste

*Net zero here is defined as any emissions generated would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as planting trees or using technology like carbon capture and storage.