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Tesco, WWF Partner to Improve Sustainability of UK Food, Diets

Image credit: WWF

UK grocery giant Tesco and WWF have announced a groundbreaking, four-year partnership aimed at reducing the environmental impact of the average UK shopping cart by 50 percent, improving the sustainability of food while ensuring it remains affordable for all1.

Food production is at the centre of key environmental issues, including climate change and biodiversity loss, as was clearly set out in WWF’s recent Living Planet Report 2018. The partnership, believed to be the first of its kind, comes as new research2 by the two organisations reveals high demand for sustainable food, with nearly 80 percent of shoppers wanting supermarkets to do more to offer food that is sourced in a responsible, sustainable way. However, it also showed obstacles deterring shoppers, with 59 percent confused about which foods count as “sustainable” and 75 percent thinking cost is a barrier.

Tesco and WWF aim to address these issues together, focusing on three key areas of activity:

  • Helping customers eat more sustainable diets — Tesco has already moved to help its customers make healthier food choices, as seen in its partnership with Jamie Oliver earlier this fall. WWF says it will build on this by helping to improve the sustainability of Tesco’s product range while keeping them affordable. WWF also pledges to help eliminate deforestation from Tesco products and ingredients sourced from outside the UK — including soy, timber, cattle and palm products (against which fellow grocer Iceland recently took a contentious stand) — and support Tesco on its journey to 100 percent certified responsible seafood products.
  • Restoring nature in food production — WWF and Tesco say they’ll support British farmers to work in harmony with nature to produce enough good food while protecting and restoring the natural resources they depend on.
  • Eliminating food and packaging waste from the sector — Tesco has long been active in the global crusade against food waste — through its surplus food redistribution program, which began in 2015; the appointment in 2016 of its CEO, Dave Lewis, as Chair of Champions 12.3; and in 2017, the launch of its “food waste hotline” and partnership with 24 suppliers to publish their food waste data. The retailer has also made moves to eliminate single-use plastics from its operations by 2025, as part of the UK Plastics Pact. WWF and Tesco haven’t shared details on how their partnership will further these commitments.

“Our flagship Living Planet Report 2018 recently revealed that the world is under threat like never before — we’re destroying forests, choking the oceans with plastic, decimating wildlife and causing devastating changes to our climate. And it’s the demand for food that poses one of the biggest dangers to our planet,” said WWF UK CEO Tanya Steele. “It’s the leading cause of deforestation, destroying countless habitats and threatening wildlife to the point of extinction. We have the power to not only stop, but to reverse the damage, if we act now. That is why we are delighted to be partnering with Tesco, to help create a food system that doesn’t cost the Earth.”

Building on the findings of the Living Planet Report, the new partnership will play an important role in delivering Tesco’s existing sustainability commitments set out in its Little Helps Plan, published a year ago.

“Our Little Helps Plan illustrates what we are doing to address the most significant environmental and social challenges facing our shoppers, colleagues, suppliers, and communities. I’m pleased we’re making progress, but we want to go further to achieve our goal of providing customers with affordable, healthy, sustainable food,” Lewis said. “Partnering with WWF will help us … to reduce the environmental impact of the average shopping basket by half. By working with farmers, suppliers, colleagues and other experts, we hope to develop innovative solutions so shoppers can put affordable, tasty food on their plates today, confident they are not compromising the future of food for generations to come.”

1Tesco and WWF will work together to create a pioneering industry measure of the environmental impact of the average UK shopping basket, based on key foods and ingredients. They will then work to reduce this by half, while ensuring products remain affordable.

2Research carried out by Walnut Unlimited on behalf of Tesco and WWF. Sample size of more than 2,000 people.

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