Co-op announces plan to produce carbon neutral own-brand food and drink by 2025

The Co-op today announced that it will be the first supermarket to sell fully carbon neutral own brand food and drink by 2025. The world-first move by a major supermarket is a radical part of an ambitious ten-point climate plan to achieve net zero carbon emission by 2040 – ten years ahead of the government’s own ambition.

From products and packaging to power and pension fund investments, the comprehensive plan details how the Co-op will reduce the direct and indirect impacts of all the food and drink it sells and its wider operations. The Co-op also reported that it had achieved carbon neutral status across its Food, Funeralcare, Insurance and Power businesses, including its 2,600 food stores and 800 funeral homes.

In an industry-first move, Co-op will price match its plant-based GRO range against equivalent meat products. It will make its entire 200-strong home delivery fleet electric, end the use of fossil fuel heating, lower farm agricultural emissions, cut packaging and reduce impacts from soy in animal feed.

Co-op Power, which is the biggest energy buying co-operative in the UK, will use its collective buying might to help Co-op suppliers to save money and source low-cost energy in an ethical, sustainable way.

The plan sets out targets, endorsed by the Science-based Targets Initiative, to cap global temperature increases and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, which came into force in 2016 and created a global pact of almost 200 countries to tackle climate change.

Co-op Food CEO, Jo Whitfield, whose pay is linked to its radical targets, said: “We are facing a monumental climate change crisis entirely of our own making. We must recognise that we are in part responsible and that we have to do more and quicker.

“Today, we are sharing the action we are taking, unveiling a comprehensive plan rooted in science. Emissions from our operations and our own-brand products are where we have the greatest responsibility and can make the biggest difference.

“Now when our members buy Co-op branded products and services we give local causes a helping hand and we’ll be addressing the urgent need to tackle the climate crisis. Funding schemes worldwide to tackle carbon emissions and supporting reforestation in the UK.”

Now when our members buy Co-op branded products and services we give local causes a helping hand and we’ll be addressing the urgent need to tackle the climate crisis.

Jo Whitfield added: “This is a hugely significant year and the world will be watching as the UK Government hosts the largest climate change conference ever (COP-26). Just as the Government must be ambitious in delivering against its own commitments, we must all be bold and take collective action to tackle climate change.”

Louisa Cox, Director of Impact at Fairtrade Foundation, said: “Fairtrade warmly welcomes these ground-breaking commitments from the Co-op. With 46 percent of the UK’s carbon footprint caused by emissions abroad, the Co-op’s call for retailers to act on ‘full end to end’ emissions shows integrity and ambition in the face of the climate emergency.

“The climate crisis is threatening the future of the people who grow our food, Fairtrade producers included, and undermining the resilience of UK food supplies. Producers must be supported to make a just transition to a zero carbon future: this requires leadership from retailers that fights the causes of climate change, invests in farmer resilience, reduces transport emissions and more. It’s also crucial that Government backs action by keeping its promises on climate finance and overseas aid.”

The Co-op will report back each year on its progress and has called on the Government be bold in demonstrating world class leadership to tackle the climate crisis, and to give credibility for a bold level of ambition for the targets they seek to set at COP-26. The Co-op calls on Government take some immediate steps, including:

  • Mandating all businesses to report their full end to end greenhouse gas emissions
  • Reaffirm its target of 0.7% of gross national income to international aid and development, including for investment in climate resilience, without delay
  • Greater transparency and penalties to prevent further deforestation, particularly for the production of Soy

The Co-op’s unique Ethical Consumerism Report, which has tracked ethical expenditure year by year over the past two decades, reveals that sales of meat-free and dairy-free products have increased by 25% and 28% and that almost one in three people intend to eat less meat and dairy than before. The report shows that sales of vegetarian and plant-based alternatives have doubled in a decade, up from £541m in 2010 to over £1bn. Green finance has topped £46.5bn while green home measures have also doubled in sales since 2010.

The Co-op’s Ten-Point Climate Plan:

  1. Make long-term changes to how we do business

We will be a net zero business by 2040, for both our operations and for our products.

  1. Set clear short-term milestones

We will reduce the impact of our operations by 50% and our products by 11%, both by 2025, in line with climate science.

  1. Rapidly reduce carbon from our operations and products

We will take clear, practical steps to reduce carbon from running our business and the products we sell, reporting progress publicly.

  1. Compensate for our climate impact

We will take responsibility for our ongoing emissions – our operations will be carbon neutral from 2021 and our own brand products by 2025.

  1. Make lower carbon choices easier for customers

We’ll support our customers and members to move to lower carbon lifestyles, starting by price matching between our Co-op own-brand plant-based and meat or dairy-based equivalent.

  1. Direct finance towards reducing carbon

We will align our finance, including carbon offsets and pension funds, to support lower carbon investments.

  1. Help suppliers on the climate change front line

We’ll support farmers, producers and communities to transition fairly to a low carbon future.

  1. Campaign for climate action

We will be advocating with Government to press for the necessary systemic change, including a call for greater climate impact disclosure and support for the most vulnerable.

  1. Co-operate for change at scale

We will actively work together across our sectors, sharing our plans and solutions, seeking to align rather than compete.

  1. Make our climate plan a priority

Underpinning these goals, we are linking the pay of our Food CEO to achieving our carbon reduction targets.

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