With only four months until COP26, the UK has taken a bold step forward in reducing the impact food has on the natural world with a number of ambitious changes to its ground-breaking Courtauld Commitment voluntary agreement. The Commitment is already helping the UK food and drink sector to deliver against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3 to halve food waste. It will now also be central in achieving and monitoring progress towards Net Zero ambitions and convening action on water stewardship in at-risk food sourcing locations.
Foremost is the first industry-wide collaborative action towards a 50% absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions associated with food and drink consumed in the UK by 2030 – a critical milestone towards longer term net zero objectives. A pioneering focus on measuring carbon along the entire food chain and acting on the results is being driven by environmental charity WRAP. The charity delivers the Courtauld Commitment, and brought together more than 80 businesses, trade bodies, NGOs, government departments and other organisations to set the inspiring new GHG targets through the practical framework of the Courtauld Commitment.
The pioneering work of the Courtauld Commitment now aligns seamlessly with the wider global target on food waste reduction under the UN’s SDG 12.3. To reflect this synergy more clearly, a new moniker for the world’s most ambitious voluntary agreement for sustainable food means it becomes the ‘Courtauld Commitment 2030’.
The Courtauld Commitment 2025 launched in 2015 and was then a ten-year programme, to complete in 2025. Today, the agreement has strong membership with more than 90% of UK food retail as well as food manufacturers, the hospitality & food service sector, farmers & growers, redistributors and charities, trade bodies, local authorities and groups and businesses from across the lifecycle of food.
The programme continues to spearhead co-ordinated activity across the whole food system and provide expertise and a non-competitive space to convene collaborative activities, drive sector-wide change and monitor and measure progress against science-based targets. The core Courtauld Commitment targets have been recast to reflect the extension and expansion of the agreement, as follows:
Extending the Courtauld food waste prevention target to 2030, and aligning it with the global target to halve food waste, will mean that:
Marcus Gover, WRAP CEO, said: “I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved under the Courtauld Commitment 2025 during the last five years. But with COP26 fast approaching, the new Courtauld Commitment 2030 has been refreshed to build on this success and meet newer demands of climate action head on. Courtauld has always addressed the most significant sustainability challenges that the sector faces – carbon reduction, improved water stewardship and food waste. Climate change is the biggest threat we all face, and fixing food is vital. I believe Courtauld has never been more important as only fundamental change can reset our fragile global food system into a sustainable model that will feed us in the future, and cut greenhouse gas emissions towards Net Zero.”
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow, Defra said: “Our food and drink industry has a hugely important role to play in addressing the urgent challenges of climate change and sustainability.
“The UK is a world leader in combating food waste, which fell by 480,000 tonnes between 2015 and 2018. But we must go further; not only by stopping more food being chucked away needlessly, but also by slashing the resources consumed by the sector, to help us achieve Net Zero.
“The Courtauld agreement has been a great success in bringing organisations together to create a more sustainable industry, and these new, far-reaching goals for 2030 will take this to the next level as we head into COP26.”
Government Food Waste Champion, Ben Elliot, said: “From farm to fork, our food and drink sector is hugely reliant on natural resources, which means it also has a significant environmental footprint.
“Not only do we need to drastically reduce our food waste both before and after it has been plated up, but we also need to reduce the reliance on those resources from the outset to better protect the planet.
“The Courtauld agreement is central to achieving this vision. I strongly encourage food and drink businesses to get behind these ambitious targets for 2030 to reaffirm the sector’s commitment to creating a greener and more sustainable food system.”
Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, Michael Matheson, Scotland said: “This year as we look ahead to COP26 it’s more important than ever that we work together to tackle food waste and its role in the climate crisis. Collaboration is essential for reducing food waste and it’s great that the Courtauld Commitment and WRAP are bringing people together to maximise their impact. By connecting governments, manufacturers and retailers to share knowledge, experience and successes, the Courtauld Commitment 2030 will play in a big role in helping Scotland deliver our ambitious food waste target.”
To enable the benefits of the Courtauld Commitment 2030 to be accessible to smaller businesses, WRAP has introduced an Associate Membership model. Now small and medium-sized enterprises can access a dedicated online platform with resources to help implement strategies towards the core targets on carbon, water stewardship and food waste prevention. Widening the signatory base will help increase impact across all targets, meaning Courtauld can go further, faster.
Courtauld Commitment Annual Report
The Courtauld Commitment Annual Report, published today, highlights many of the activities of the last year, including: