Several major supermarket chains and product manufacturers are
banding together to improve the environmental performance of their
The Product Sustainability Forum (PSF) is a collaboration of over 80
organisations made up of grocery and home improvement retailers and
suppliers, academics, non-governmental organisations. They are supported
by Defra, the Scottish government and Welsh government, and chaired by
WRAP’s chief executive, Liz Goodwin.
Together, they have been conducting research into the greenhouse gas
(GHG) emissions, product waste, and water, energy and resource use of
traditional grocery products through their entire life cycles. The
research is published in a report, "An initial assessment of the environmental impact of grocery products".
This has brought to light opportunities to reduce emissions for the
delivery of several common grocery provisions, such as potatoes and
The Co-operative, Nestle and Sainsbury’s will now pilot projects
known as ‘pathfinders’, to target their efforts where many of the
biggest environmental savings are. More companies will subsequently
follow the path they are to trailblaze.
The Co-operative and Nestle will respectively look at waste
prevention and resource efficiency measures across potato, milk and
chocolate supply chains, while Sainsbury’s is focussing on its meat,
fish, and poultry products as well as produce.
Stuart Lendrum, Sainsbury’s print and packaging manager, said that
this "invaluable project… is closely aligned with the targets we have
set ourselves in our 20×20 Plan".
The research is a meta-study of data from over 150 existing life-cycle studies of products. They cover over 200 grocery items.
The top 50 product groups, where many of the biggest environmental
savings could be made, were grouped at a level considered to be most
useful for business, as follows:
Alcoholic drinks: Cider and perry; Lager; Spirits; Wine
Ambient: Breakfast cereals; Canned fish and seafood; Canned meat
products; Canned vegetables, soups, pasta and noodles; Cat food and dog
food; Chocolate; Coffee; Crisps (potato); Processed snacks; Rice; Sugar
Bakery: Biscuits (sweet); Bread and rolls; Cakes, pastries and morning goods
Dairy: Butter; Cheese; Milk and cream; Yogurt
Fruit and vegetables: Bananas; Onions; Potatoes; Tomatoes
Household: Dishwashing products; General purpose and toilet cleaners; Laundry detergents; Toilet paper and kitchen rolls
Meat, fish, poultry and eggs: Beef (chilled and frozen); Deli food;
Eggs; Fish and seafood (chilled and frozen); Lamb (chilled and frozen);
Pork (chilled and frozen); Poultry (chilled and frozen)
Non-alcoholic drinks: Carbonates; Concentrates; Juices
Other chilled and frozen: Frozen vegetables and potato products; Ice
cream and frozen desserts; Margarine; Pizza (chilled and frozen);
Pre-packed sandwiches; Ready meals (chilled and frozen)
Personal care: Bath and shower products and shampoos; Deodorants; Nappies
These products are an initial ‘Top 50’ that will be reviewed and
expanded in future iterations of the PSF’s prioritisation efforts. A
further 20 products will be identified in spring-summer 2013.
It is estimated that together these will comprise more than 90% of
the GHG emissions associated with producing, transporting and retailing
the grocery products consumed in the UK.
The Co-operative Group is involving its partners across its entire
fresh potato supply chain to identify and implement opportunities to
prevent waste and improve wider resource efficiency (energy consumption,
water consumption and GHG emissions). It will then apply the lessons
learned to other fresh produce.
Iain Ferguson, environment manager, The Co-operative, said: “This
will allow us to identify areas where we can make environmental savings
while still delivering great quality products. The work aligns
perfectly with the aims of our Ethical Plan, in which we committed to
reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and energy usage, supporting and
developing green energy and reducing waste throughout our business.”
Nestle is working on a collaborative project with its principal milk
supplier in the UK: First Milk. Its team is working with a group of
dairy producers to pioneer new working methods.
Inder Poonaji, head of safety, health and environment sustainability,
Nestle, said: “We are really pleased to link our sustainability
programmes with WRAP – together we can make a difference.”
A similar approach is also being used by WRAP to review the
electrical and home improvement markets. The electricals report will be
released in coming months and the home improvement report will be
released later in 2013.
According to Liz Goodwin, chair of the Product Sustainability Forum,
the main objective of this important research has been "to establish
which grocery products are likely to contribute the most to environment
impacts associated with UK household consumption".
She said: "By gaining a better understanding of the products that
matter in the context of UK consumption, we can help businesses to
prioritise their efforts to improve the environmental performance of
their products in areas that will generate the biggest economic and
She said that the integrated approach “enables companies to consider
the biggest environmental and cost saving opportunities. By highlighting
opportunities for improvement the PSF is enabling whole supply chains
to come together and tackle the hotspots that have been identified.”
Lord de Mauley, Defra's resource management minister, said: “It is
great to see major household names leading the way to cut out wasteful
food practices in the UK. By simplifying the production of their goods,
we know that businesses can save themselves billions of pounds while
reducing their environmental impact. We hope this research will inspire
other companies to take action to improve their efficiency.”
Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s cabinet secretary for rural affairs and
the environment, was keen to highlight the ways in which the project
supported Scotland's ambitious Zero Waste Plan which, he said, "will
take the concerted efforts of all of us, and I am pleased that the forum
has come together to address what can be done to minimise the
environmental impact of grocery goods.”