Global Resource Initiative taskforce: greening the UK’s environmental footprint

A taskforce of leaders from business and environmental organisations have met for the first time to consider actions the UK can take to green its international supply chains and leave a lighter footprint on the global environment.

Representatives from leading businesses and environmental groups come together yesterday (18 July 2019) to consider how we can reduce the climate and environment impacts of key UK supply chains.

The Global Resource Initiative (GRI) taskforce will seek to identify ambitious actions to drive more resilient and sustainable food systems that avoid deforestation and environmental degradation overseas, while supporting jobs and livelihoods.

The taskforce will bring together major businesses including Legal & General, Cargill, McDonald’s and Tesco, along with the Green Finance Institute, WWF and NGO Forest Coalition.

Just as any company has a supply chain, so too does the UK and demand for key commodities like palm oil, soya and beef can act as a driver of deforestation and environmental degradation overseas, leaving a so-called environmental footprint.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said,

Ingredients in products we are consuming daily come from parts of the world where we are losing habitat, which impacts wildlife and climate change. Having a fully sustainable supply chain is vital for the planet. I am pleased the UK is showing leadership on this global challenge, supported by leading businesses, investors and conservationists.

The government anticipates a report next year, ahead of key international biodiversity and climate summits later in 2020.

The series of summits in the 2020 ‘super year’ offer opportunities to shape the international sustainability agenda. It will contribute to the delivery of the UK’s international commitments on climate and biodiversity, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.

The GRI is a key part of the commitment the government made in the 25 Year Environment Plan to leave a lighter footprint on the global environment. It will complement existing work to promote sustainable commodities, as well as the government’s recent commitment to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The taskforce is supported across government and was developed in partnership by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra); the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for International Development (DFID).

Sir Ian Cheshire, the chair of the independent taskforce said, “The GRI presents an opportunity to transform our approach to sustainable land use and to shape the direction of travel for the UK while creating a model for change that will inspire other countries.

“I very much look forward to playing a leading role in this new taskforce and I am delighted to be joined by so many distinguished individuals.”

Beth Hart, Director of Supply Chain at McDonald’s UK and Ireland said, “At McDonald’s we are focussed on using our scale for good in order to reduce our environmental impact; for example, globally by 2030 in partnership with our suppliers we have committed to a 31 per cent reduction in emissions intensity across our global supply chain. Working with our suppliers, we also have a commitment to eliminating deforestation from our global supply chains by 2030.

“The GRI taskforce presents the opportunity to further identify and address some of the biggest challenges we all face in partnership, and we look forward to collaborating across industry and various centres of excellence to continue to reduce our environmental impact.”

Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas, Chief Executive Officer for the Green Finance Institute, said, “Finance has a key role to play in achieving the aims of the GRI. There are clear synergies between government and private sector as we look to scale up potential financial solutions to support sustainable supply chains. As the principal interface between government and the private sector with regards green finance, the Green Finance Institute is excited to be contributing to the work of the Taskforce.”

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