Food and drink firms are being urged to join a new industry-wide commitment to cut food waste, water use and carbon emissions, which could save the UK economy £20 billion.
The voluntary measures are part of the refreshed Courtauld Commitment, a government-backed programme aimed at improving resource efficiency and reducing waste in the food and drink sector.
The programme is delivered by the Government’s Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), with leading brands and supermarket chains representing 93 per cent of the UK food and drink market already signed up.
Trade associations and local authorities are also taking part to help engage a wider range of organisations beyond the primary signatories.
The new commitment runs to 2025 with the goal of cutting the waste and greenhouse gas emissions associated with food and drink by at least 20 per cent against 2015 levels, as well as improving water stewardship.
WRAP estimates that this could provide a £20 billion benefit to the economy, including saving businesses in the sector £4 billion.
Signatories will work collaboratively to share best practice across supply chain, embed sustainable practices into production and distribution and find innovative ways to make best use of surplus and waste food.
Richard Swannell, director of sustainable food systems at WRAP, said: “The pressures of resource scarcity, population growth and our changing climate will have profound effects on our food supply in the coming years, and business efficiency.
“To safeguard UK food we need a step-change to increase sustainable food and drink production and consumption, conserve resources and combat climate change. Courtauld 2025 will do this.”
The 2025 programme is the fourth phase of the Courtauld Commitment, which has made a considerable impact on the food and drink sector since launching in 2005. The first phase prevented 1.2 million tonnes of food and packaging waste over a four year period to 2009.
The second phase between 2010 and 2012 saved a further 1.7 million tonnes and reduced waste in the supply chain by 7.4 per cent. The final results of the third phase from 2013 to 2015 are due to be published later this year.
In separate news, the government-backed Business in the Community (BITC) initiative has published a new action plan to encourage better water stewardship in the food and drink sector.
The six-step ‘smart water’ plan helps businesses to set out a plan of action to reduce water usage in their operations, for example using alternative water sources, more efficient technology or staff training.
Gudrun Cartwright, environment director at BITC, said: “Businesses increasingly recognise that action needs to be taken, but while tools and resources are available, it can be difficult for food and drink manufacturers to know where to start.
“By understanding their relationship with water, businesses can collaborate better to improve quality and use.”