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Food Foundation urges businesses to take action on sustainability metrics

21st Oct 2021 - 08:44
A new report from the Food Foundation highlights the urgency with which food businesses need to start transparently reporting on health and sustainability metrics.

The Food Foundation warns that upcoming opportunities COP26 and Nutrition for Growth are currently ignoring the urgent need to transform a failing food system to help reverse climate change.

Tracking progress made by the sector in the past 12 months, the ‘Plating Up Progress’ report shows five out of 11 supermarkets now having targets for sales of healthy or healthier food compared to two this time last year.

Despite this progress, only two major supermarkets report on animal versus plant-based protein sales – a shift that is ‘urgently needed’ for the UK to meet net zero targets.

In the out-of-home sector, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a slowing down of progress within the restaurant and catering sectors compared to supermarkets.

Of the 18 major UK-operating caterers, quick service and casual dining restaurant chains, just one has a public target for the percentage of menus or products to be quantifiably healthy and only five have targets for the percentage of menus to be plant-based or meat-free.

Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation, commented: “Our food system is in crisis, and is in desperate need of change to ensure that the industry is doing its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work towards the UK’s net zero targets.

“International events such as COP26 and the Nutrition for Growth summit present a huge opportunity for the industry to come together with new global commitments, yet we are increasingly concerned about the stark differences in regular and transparent reporting on sustainability metrics, as detailed in our report.

“We need all food businesses to start setting targets that evidence the transition of their businesses to healthier and more sustainable food sales. However, the issues facing the food industry are too wide-ranging and complex for individual companies to solve in isolation.

“That is why we need government and investors to help drive this change towards regular and accurate reporting, to help food businesses and retailers shift to healthier, more sustainable practices.”

In response to these findings, the Food Foundation has issued a series of recommendations to Government and businesses to forge a consensus on metrics and reporting mechanisms that allows the food industry to make progress in transitioning to sustainable diets.

For Government:

  • Ensure that the National Food Strategy recommendation for mandatory reporting on healthy and sustainable food sales goes into legislation.
  • Ensure the development of a database of environmental impacts to facilitate better reporting from food businesses on scope 3 emissions and biodiversity impacts.

For food businesses:

  • Actively support the government’s adoption of the National Food Strategy recommendation for mandatory reporting on healthy and sustainable food sales, to ensure that they are practicable and appropriate for the sectors.
  • Actively engage in industry collaborations to agree industry protocols for reporting on crucial environmental issues where progress is sorely needed, such as scope 3 emissions, sustainable water use, and biodiversity impacts.
Written by
Edward Waddell