Author: Jessica Sinclair Taylor

Feedback challenges Tesco to reduce its meat and dairy sales

21st Jun 23 by Liam Lysaght

Read about the greenwash van's visit to Tesco.

Last week, we were at Tesco’s AGM to challenge the food retail giant on its climate targets, and its inaction to meet them. Tesco has committed to be net zero by 2050, but is dangerously light on detail for how they’ll achieve this. Most importantly, it has no plan nor ambition to reduce its sales of the most highly polluting food products – meat and dairy.

As they haven’t even published the emissions data of their massive meat and dairy sales, we calculated it for them and presented the findings to their CEO, Ken Murphy, in front of the Board and the shareholders.

A van is seen parked outside Tesco in Hackney East London, 12 July 2023.
Photo: Marcin Nowak/Feedback

Using open data from similar businesses, we estimated Tesco’s meat, fish and dairy sales to be 24.8 million tonnes CO2e every year. This is equivalent to the emissions from the whole country of Northern Ireland, and is a considerable roadblock to their net zero ambitions. Yet Tesco has yet to publish a strategy for how it will reduce this enormous greenhouse gas bill. Instead, Tesco has been busy publicising its fleet of electric delivery vans, which they have predicted to save 82,000 tonnes by 2028 – representing only 0.1% of the company’s overall emissions this year.

We made it clear to the CEO, the Board of Directors, and the shareholders: Every little doesn’t help when it comes to a carbon footprint as big as Tesco’s. Initiatives like electric vans amount to little more than greenwash and gimmicks if they aren’t paired with a real plan to tackle the 24.8 million tonnes of C02e from Tesco’s continued and reckless sales of meat and dairy.

That’s also why our ‘Tesco Climate-Delivery Van’ recently took to the streets of London – to let Tesco’s customers know how the supermarket is failing to act on the climate crisis. The spoof delivery van carried the familiar style of Tesco’s advertising, but cut through the bull to show the reality of the food retailer’s climate impacts.

Feedback are calling on Tesco to get serious on their meat and dairy sales, publish their product emissions data, and start taking action to reduce their emissions where it matters.

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Supermarkets in the Netherlands are avoiding responsibility for one third of their CO2 & methane emissions

2nd Nov 21 by Frank Mechielsen, Campaign Lead, Netherlands

Our new report explores whether Dutch supermarkets are doing enough to tackle the climate impact of their meat and dairy.

Today, Feedback EU published its first report (in Dutch or read the English summary here): a brief exploring the role of Dutch supermarkets in addressing the country’s climate footprint by taking responsibility for the environmental impact of their high meat and dairy sales. Frank Mechielsen, Campaign Lead in the Netherlands, explores how they’re measuring up.

During the Climate Summit COP26 this week in Glasgow, it is important that Dutch supermarkets show their ambitions in their fight against climate change. In their announcements, they emphasize the reduction of CO2 emissions in their own stores and their transport, but what they don’t mention is that this is only a small part of their overall emissions. Like in the UK, 95% of supermarket emissions come from the supply chain. About a third of this is caused by the production of meat and dairy. Two major retailers, Albert Heijn and Lidl, are starting to become transparent about their meat sales, but no supermarket has a plan to reduce meat and dairy sales.

The report draws on a poll by IPSOS among a representative sample of 994 Dutch citizens. Four in ten young people see a greater role for supermarkets in reducing meat consumption. For example, by fewer promotions on meat and more promotion of meat substitutes. Supporters of the Green party (GroenLinks), the Party of the Animals, and Democrates D66 also expect more leadership from supermarkets on this theme. Furthermore, 18% of young people up to the age of 35 say they do not buy meat, almost twice as high as average.

With an 80% market share, the five largest retailers have an enormous influence on the food system in the Netherlands. Last year, supermarkets saw their turnover increase by 14% thanks to the impact of Covid-19. Nearly half (45%) of consumers under 35 believe that supermarkets should reinvest their Covid-19 profits in offering more plant-based and sustainably produced products.

Dutch supermarkets continue to offer too much cheap meat, which causes more than half of the food-related greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. In the Netherlands, livestock is the driving force behind the nitrogen crisis, and growing emissions of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas. Supermarkets must take more responsibility for the climate impact throughout their entire chain by halving the sale of meat and dairy by 2030, and offer more healthier and plant-based food. If they don’t, they won’t be able to achieve their climate ambitions.

The report analysed data and commitments from the five major retailers and concludes that Albert Heijn, through parent company AholdDelhaize, is the only retailer to be transparent about greenhouse gas emissions across their entire supply chain, including the part caused by animal proteins.

Supermarkets are starting to respond to this growing climate priority. Albert Heijn is committed to achieving a 50/50 balance in animal/vegetable proteins by 2025 and showed for the first time its current ratio in protein sales: 70% animal to 30% vegetable. Furthermore Lidl announced that 25% of their total revenue derives from fresh meat and dairy products.  Jumbo set a new target to increase their plant-based alternatives from the current 4% to 10% by 2025. But no major supermarket has so far set specific targets to reduce meat and dairy sales. The much smaller Ekoplaza is at the forefront of this and has specific targets to reduce meat sales by 2022.

Feedback’s UK scorecard, published in June 2021, showed that none of the UK’s 10 largest supermarkets are taking steps to reduce meat supply. They continue to encourage meat consumption through low-price promotions, labelling and product placement. In 2022, Feedback will launch a scorecard together with partners from other EU countries to assess supermarkets on their commitments, policies and trade practices to tackle climate change and the transition to less and better meat.

The recent Food Policy Coalition report, to which Feedback contributed, emphasises the importance of a healthy and sustainable food environment. Supermarkets must use their marketing resources to enable their customers to make healthy and sustainable choices, which means eating far less meat and dairy and where they do choose to eat meat buying ‘better’. Instead of the current fixation on price, supermarkets should place other values ​​such as human and animal health, environment, climate, fair income for farmers and workers much more centrally in their communication to their customers.

The Food Transition Coalition (TCV), in which Feedback EU participates, advocates an ambitious ‘protein transition’ from 60/40 to 40/60 in animal/vegetable proteins to be achieved by 2030. During the ‘Plant the Future’ dinner last month, more than 100 organisations and companies came together to discuss how plant-based can become the new normal. Politicians must make the protein transition a spearhead in policy aimed at food, climate and health. Businesses must be directed to adjust the supply and promotion of animal products. The True Animal Protein Price Coalition (TAPPC), active this week at the CoP in Glasgow, promotes an environmental tax on meat. According to the PBL, this leads to a reduction of 2 Mton CO2 eq. per year, a small coal-fired power station. A large majority of the population in the Netherlands supports an environmental tax on meat in the coalition agreement, which D66 and Christen Unie also support.

A third of AholdDelhaize’s total emissions are produced by meat and dairy. This corresponds to the annual emissions from heating 6 million homes, three quarters of all homes in the Netherlands. Supermarkets must increase their climate ambitions and sell less meat and more vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and grains. It is especially important during this COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow that companies set a good example.

Read the full report the Ipsos poll, and the English summary.

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The shift to Paris Agreement-aligned diets won’t happen without retailers

26th Oct 21 by Jessica Sinclair Taylor, Head of Policy and Media

Investors eyeing the UK retail market should remember that supermarkets face one of the toughest and most important climate transitions yet.

UK retailers are having a moment in the sun when it comes to international investment. Last week saw UK retailer Morrisons agree its purchase with new owners, US equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (which provoked concerns from Feedback and our allies in the Times this weekend). Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s is the next supermarket in US investors’ sights, with the firm that missed out on buying Morrisons, Fortress, said to be interested in the UK’s second biggest retailer instead.

Retailer sustainability strategies may not have been top of the agenda as these investors sized up their new assets. But investors large and small shouldn’t forget that UK retailers face one of the toughest new fronts in corporate climate action: how to create a sustainable food system, within the deadlines that the climate science tells us are looming ever closer. As the need for a rapid decarbonisation of the UK economy sharpens, the focus in the next few years won’t be on supermarkets’ electric vehicle fleets or plastic bag charges but on how they intend to tackle the emissions associated with the products they sell and the supply chains that produced them (their ‘Scope 3’ emissions), of which meat and dairy make up a major slice. Feedback’s new investor brief, ‘The Shift to Paris-aligned Diets and Investor Risk in the UK Retail Sector’ explores these themes, based on our 2021 Meat and Climate Scorecard, which used just under 40 indicators to assess the top ten retailers on their action to address the climate impact of the meat and dairy they sell.

The investor brief explores the physical and transitional climate risks retailers face, associated with their sales of meat and dairy, and argues that, as markets continue to price climate risk into the value of equity securities, setting and meeting ambitious and accountable science-based targets on product emissions will become a bellwether of a retailer’s long-term viability. And it makes the case that only by radically reducing how much meat and dairy they sell will retailers be able to meet these targets.

Most UK retailers have some sort of ‘climate plan’ and many, under pressure from the COP26 team as well as investors, have net zero targets. But, here’s the rub: to be credible, retailers’ net zero plans must include their Scope 3 emissions, which represent up to 95% of their overall carbon footprint. Retailers are reluctant to include these figures in their targets – Green Bonds issued by Tesco last year explicitly excluded their Scope 3 emissions from their action targets, and the retailer has yet to update their implausible Scope 3 estimates, which saw these emissions represented as only a small proportion of Tesco’s overall climate burden. This is because reducing Scope 3 emissions, otherwise known as taking meaningful climate action, requires fundamental changes to what retailers sell, and how they sell it. Figures on the proportion of Scope 3 emissions generated by retailers’ sales of meat and dairy are hard to come by because of a lack of transparency, but numbers published by a Dutch retailer Ahold Delhaize suggest they represent around a third of Scope 3 emissions.

So what should a climate-savvy investor eyeing one of the UK’s mega retailers be looking for?

First, does this retailer have a credible decarbonisation target that is science-based, independently audited, and in line with the global goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees?  Does this plan include how they will halve (at least) their Scope 3 emissions in a credible, Paris-aligned timeframe? This is a bare minimum: supermarkets have a huge amount of power in our food supply chain, and scientific evidence shows that if we don’t address food systems, we’re very unlikely to deliver 1.5 degrees. Investors can expect governments and the public to pay more and more attention to supermarkets’ role in delivering a just and safe future as we head towards 2030.

Just as importantly, does the retailer have a credible plan for how it will achieve this target, and the transparency to back it up? UK retailers provide hugely varying levels of detail on how they plan to achieve their plans: Tesco announced a new target in October but with little detail on how it will get there. Sainsbury’s, who was first out of the net zero blocks back in 2020, has still not published a detailed plan showing how exactly it will cut its emissions. This matters, because all the retailers have still to publicly face the very clear reality that they cannot achieve any credible climate targets without reducing how much meat and dairy they sell.

Where retailers talk about their plans, do they include action at every level of their business? This means from mainstreaming sustainability targets by linking them to senior staff’s renumeration packages to making changes on the shop floor that will actually start to shift their shoppers’ habits. We shouldn’t be naïve – supermarkets have been shaping how we shop and what we buy for decades, and the myth that they only respond to consumer demand is a dangerous one. Promotions, labelling, and even how food is displayed in stores all contribute to how we shop. Feedback’s supermarket scorecard had a series of suggestions for how supermarkets can address the ‘food environment’ they create, to make it healthier and more sustainable: but retailers need to do their own research and accept that selling less meat and dairy – not just more plant-based foods – is going to be a central piece of the puzzle.

The scorecard is not looking strong. Sainsbury’s, the ‘official’ supermarket of COP26, which kicks off next week, announced a net zero ambition back in early 2020. Yet Sainsbury’s have yet to provide investors with the essential transparency on their emissions, broken down by sales category, or with a concrete roadmap of how they intend to address them. Tesco is even further behind – their plan to have ‘net zero’ products and supply chains by 2050, announced earlier this month, fails to align with a commitment only a few weeks earlier to cut product-based emissions by half by 2030. Morrisons has vaguely guestured to future ‘net zero eggs’ and beef – an approach which will rely solely on offsets, a strategy which is coming under increasing scrutiny from climate-savvy investors (as we argue in this letter to the FT).

Until retailers have credible answers to each of these questions – and the transparency to prove it – investors may be left to conclude that the real answer to ‘what’s the plan on retailers’ climate transition?’ is that, currently, there is no plan.

Read the full investor brief: ‘The Shift to Paris-aligned Diets and Investor Risk in the UK Retail Sector’

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Meat, methane and meeting 1.5 degrees

17th Aug 21 by Jessica Sinclair Taylor, Head of Policy

Will businesses and governments heed the IPCC's nod to methane as a route to 1.5 degrees?

The latest IPCC report, out earlier this week, is a stark wake up call which should strengthen negotiators’ resolve in the run up to COP26 in Glasgow this November. The report was also unequivocal on the role of tackling methane emissions in addressing our clear and present climate danger.

Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas, 28 times more so than carbon emissions at warming the atmosphere. Here’s five things we took away from the IPCC report on methane and what it may mean for public and private sector climate policy.

  1. Methane is the cow in the room when it comes to keeping 1.5 degrees alive

Action to reduce methane emissions can avoid 0.3°C of warming by 2045, according to UNEP. 0.3 degrees may not sound like much – but when you consider the global temperature has already risen by 1.2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, and the IPCC projects us to hit 1.5 degrees at or before 2030, 0.3 suddenly seems a whole lot more relevant. Methane’s potency means that cutting levels urgently is one of the most effective ways to slow warming in the short-term (while continuing to cut carbon emissions to prevent longer term warming).

  1. Agriculture – and livestock – are one of the biggest drivers of man-made methane emissions

Figures from the IPCC report show that significantly more methane has been emitted from livestock production than from oil and gas production in the past two decades. Addressing livestock represents a unique opportunity to reduce the chance of dangerous climate change: ruminants are estimated to have produced enough methane to have caused a third of total global warming since the industrial revolution. According to the UNEP, healthy diets which are high in plants and lower in meat and dairy could achieve yearly methane reductions in the region of 15-30Mt/year. 

  1. But meat isn’t on the climate policy table – yet.

Yet for all that there are a variety of so-called ‘shovel ready’ policy measures that politicians could adopt to curb methane emissions – many focused around helping to shift public diets so people eat more plants and less meat and dairy – livestock and methane aren’t yet on the table at COP26, or in the UK’s domestic climate policy.

While our government gestured towards ‘healthy diets from a sustainable food system’ in our Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement, it then took two steps backward by insisting that it will meet its climate targets ‘whilst maintaining people’s freedom of choice, including on their diet’. Yet high-meat diets are currently the default and there is often far less choice of alternatives. As the National Food Strategy argued, to address stubbornly high food system emissions, we need to curb our current appetite for meat.

  1. Climate-friendly farming is possible – and it needs government support

Meat has a place in a 1.5 degree future, but it isn’t the one envisaged by the behemoth livestock companies of the world – the Cargills and Faccendas, which between them displace indigenous peoples, destroy lower impact and fairer livelihoods, deplete freshwater resources, deforest the ‘Earth’s Lungs’ and produce more emissions a year as a sector than than ExxonMobil, Shell, or BP. Our future consumption of meat and dairy, at much lower levels than is currently the norm, is likely to involve a patchwork food system, in which agro-ecological production co-exists with forestry and nature conservation, and in which ‘surplus’ food is recycled back into the food system in animal feed. But this future needs public investment as surely as we need to be divesting from some of the livestock industry’s worst emitters. 

  1. Supermarkets will find themselves in the spotlight.

When Feedback ranked UK supermarkets on their action on meat and climate in June this year, the results were underwhelming: none scored more than 50% on our scorecard, and all continued to drive meat consumption with promotions and offers. Yet change is in the air, with all UK supermarkets recently committing to a new target to halve the emissions from their products by 2030. With meat, dairy and fish representing around 70% of emissions from the products supermarkets sell, it’s simple maths that supermarkets will have a hard time meeting their new targets without selling a lot more plants and a lot less animal products.

Failure to shift food systems onto a more sustainable pathway, including through dietary change, rules out meeting the 1.5 degree target. The pathway to ambitious methane reductions lies right before our feet – whether governments will help us tread it is yet to be seen. 

Read our longer briefing on methane mitigation through sustainable food systems changes here.

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Feedback responds to the National Food Strategy

15th Jul 21 by Jessica Sinclair Taylor, Head of Policy

The National Food Strategy marks a historic opportunity for transformation - will the government listen?

Commenting on the publication of the National Food Strategy which aims to set out a plan for a healthier and more climate and nature friendly food system, Carina Millstone, Executive Director of environmental Charity Feedback said:

“After a pandemic which has exposed the shameful extent of food inequality in the UK, and as alarm grows over unchecked destruction of nature, this Strategy shows us that a vibrant, productive, sustainable food system is within our reach, but that Big Food’s business as usual – on sugar, on meat and on waste – cannot continue.”

On the Strategy’s plans to address sugar consumption through a sugar tax on manufacturers:

“Addressing the UK’s dangerously high sugar consumption means going beyond the strategy’s strong proposals for a sugar tax to address what this means for English sugar beet production, and especially the corporate monopoly of British Sugar, which produces enough sugar every year to exceed the entire population’s recommended allowance by two thirds – and in the process uses roughly the same area of land to grow sugar beet as we do all other veg crops combined.”

On food waste:

“The Strategy glosses over the vast amounts of food wasted on farms every year, which leaves farmers to suffer lost income in silence, and inflicts untold damage on our climate and nature. Backing mandatory reporting on food waste for all big food businesses is one thing, but the history of food waste action in this country shows we need targets, not just transparency, particularly to tackle the hidden blight of food waste on farms.”

On supermarkets fuelling demand for meat:

“The National Food Strategy’s strong target for meat reduction is the right move in response to the overwhelming science on meat production, nature and the climate. Crucially, it also points out that some of the most powerful players – supermarkets – must play a central role in this change. To make this a reality, supermarkets must stop actively fuelling demand for meat through misleading labelling, and promotions, as well as listening to the 50% of the public who think supermarkets should set a target to sell less meat.”

On better support for food access:

“The Strategy is right to focus on how government can help create good green jobs in farming, and make it easier for people in every income bracket to eat a healthy, fresh and sustainable diet. But more healthy start vouchers won’t work if there’s nowhere to buy fresh, healthy food in your area: seeding local and regional food economies through access to funding and training, and helping civil society get beyond the food bank model is vital.”

Further response out tomorrow.

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Supermarket scorecard reveals UK retailers are fuelling demand for meat and dairy at expense of the climate

17th Jun 21 by Jessica Sinclair Taylor

UK supermarkets are fuelling demand for meat and dairy products which is harming public health and the climate.

UK supermarkets are fuelling demand for meat and dairy products which is harming public health and the climate, reveals a new supermarket scorecard published by environmental charity, Feedback, today.

The scorecard ranks the UK’s top 10 supermarkets on their efforts to reduce the environmental cost of the meat and dairy products they sell. The Co-op, Tesco, and Waitrose top the rankings but even the Co-op, the best performing retailer, scored just 45%.  Asda, Iceland and Lidl ranked bottom with the worst performer, Lidl, scoring just 17%.

Carina Millstone, Executive Director of Feedback, said: “UK supermarkets are continuing to drive demand for meat and dairy products that are already responsible for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions – and fuelling deforestation in the Amazon and elsewhere. It’s time for supermarkets to step up to the plate, slash their meat and dairy products and offer customers more sustainable and healthier options”.

The scorecard revealed that many supermarkets have improved their environmental policies since the last assessment in 2019 but that they were failing to translate this into action:

  • All 10 supermarkets actively encourage meat consumption through promotions, and not just to avoid waste when products near their expiry dates. This means retailers are fuelling – and not simply responding to – demand for meat.
  • Only one supermarket, the Co-op, is accurately measuring and publicly reporting on the climate impact of the goods it sells – but only for its own label products.
  • Half the supermarkets including Tesco, M&S and ALDI continue to use misleading or ‘fake farm’ labels and names such as ‘Trusted Farms’ which give the impression that their meat is produced to higher standards than is the reality.
  • Options such as organic or free range make up less than 20% of the products offered by all the supermarkets, while Iceland offers no free range or organic options. Only 3 retailers – Asda, Morrisons and Tesco – ensure that more than a quarter of the ready to cook meals they offer are vegetarian or vegan.
  • None of the supermarkets reveal how much meat and dairy they sell as a proportion of their protein sales, making it difficult to track their progress.

More promising signs include the steps taken by all retailers to promote healthy fruit and vegetable consumption, commitments from the Co-op and Sainsbury’s to link board or senior leadership remuneration to achieving environmental outcomes, and supermarkets’ work to put pressure on Brazilian suppliers to prevent products linked to deforestation from entering their supply chains. All the retailers, with the exception of Iceland and ASDA, have made a public commitment to drop meat linked to deforestation; however they have yet to remove these products, including chicken and pork fed on soya grown in deforested areas, from their shelves.

Meat and dairy production contributes to climate change through direct emissions from animals and their waste and through the destruction of important ecosystems such as the Amazon rainforest to raise cattle or grow soy for animal feed. The UK imports the majority of its soya from South America, at least 90% of which is fed to animals, particularly chicken and pork.

The 10 supermarkets control 94% of the UK grocery market and have a huge influence on what we eat through the products they sell, and the way in which they market, package and promote them.

Many customers want to reduce the health and environmental impacts of their food with 43% of people surveyed by YouGov say they often make the choice to reduce their meat consumption when shopping.

The government’s Committee on Climate Change has said the UK need to cut meat and dairy consumption by 20% by 2030 to meet its climate commitments while the University of Oxford estimates consumption of meats such as beef should be cut by as much as 89% to meet the NHS Eatwell guidelines.

Carina Millstone said: “With 3 out of 4 shoppers visiting supermarkets several times a week, it is clear that retailers have a special responsibility to help their customers enjoy food that is both good for them and for the planet. Supermarkets must also take responsibility for the emissions of their sales, and commit to reducing these by selling much less meat and dairy and much more fresh fruit and veg.”

Simon Billing, Executive Director of Eating Better added: “Feedback’s scorecard shows retailers are still focused on boosting meat sales, despite setting net zero targets and pledging to help us eat healthier and more sustainably. Making it easier for shoppers to buy more meat and dairy than they need, or probably want is not the way forward for our health, or that of the planet.”

Mathieu Flamini, former professional footballer and environmental entrepreneur, said: “Reducing my consumption of animal protein and dairy improved my health and my performance on and off the pitch: I was able to recover quicker and cope with the daily workload better. I was not only doing myself good by eating less meat, but as a nature lover I was also able to reduce my impact on the planet. Together let’s all do our bit, including also the businesses like retailers who supply us so much of the food we eat.”

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Why parliamentary pensions investments in JBS matter for regulatory due diligence on deforestation

26th May 21 by Jessica Sinclair Taylor, Head of Policy

New analysis from Feedback shows even MPs about to vote on deforestation measures have pensions investments in JBS.

A new report analysing investments held by the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund (PCPF) reveals that Members of Parliament hold pensions investments in a fund holding US$67m in stock from companies among the top 35 largest global meat and dairy companies. The fund—iShares Emerging Markets Index Fund, managed by multinational corporation BlackRock—includes shares of JBS, one of the biggest meat producers in the world whose business practices have been repeatedly linked to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and Cerrado region.

“I welcome measures in the Environment Bill to hold companies accountable for the illegal deforestation they cause. Indigenous people are being exploited by these companies and are in many cases being deprived of their land and livelihoods. But this new evidence proves that the bill must go further,” said Neil Parish, Member of Parliament (MP) for Tiverton and Honiton. “It is unacceptable that whilst MPs vote on this bill, our pension pots are being invested in companies fuelling deforestation. All pension funds should check where their money is being invested, and Parliament should be leading by example. However, we cannot rely on goodwill alone. This new evidence shows exactly why the bill must be toughened to include financial institutions in the due diligence obligation.”

“I am shocked to learn that MPs’ own pensions are funding companies which have been repeatedly linked to not only deforestation—legal and illegal—but also to terrible working conditions on Brazilian beef farms,” said Kerry McCarthy, Member of Parliament (MP) for Bristol East. “The UK’s complicity in deforestation overseas is a black mark on our record. We need strong regulation and leadership to stop this, and the Environment Bill is our best opportunity to get this right.”

Among the US$67m invested by the iShares Emerging Markets Index Fund in companies among the top 35 global meat and dairy companies, approximately US$8m was invested in JBS, a Brazilian company known for its role in deforestation. The PCPF is exposed to this invest in JBS through its shares in the fund. Though these figures represent only a fraction of PCPF investments, they signal the failure of voluntary measures aimed at reigning in the financial sector’s investment in companies posing serious and ongoing risks to forests and driving activities that contribute to climate change. Tropical deforestation increased 12% in 2020 even as the global economy shrank 3.5%, worrying scientists and advocates alike on the potential impacts of an economic recovery on the globe’s dwindling natural habitats.

Devastating yearly occurrences linked to deforestation, such as tropical forest fires, can destroy large swathes of land, people’s homes and endangered wildlife. According to the report, strong domestic laws to hold companies accountable for the deforestation they are fueling must not exclude the financial sector or risk failing to address one of the most integral parts of the supply chain.

In 2021, the UK government plans to introduce a new, ‘world-leading’ deforestation regulation. But so far, the plan excludes the financial sector. The European Parliament, on the other hand, recently recommended a regulatory approach to ending deforestation that incorporates the financial sector. A proposed due diligence obligation requires the sector to prove they do not profit from forest loss.

“The UK government prides itself in its domestic climate leadership, but isn’t sufficiently tackling deforestation, an integral part of global climate change mitigation”, said Carina Millstone, Executive Director at Feedback. “It rightly wants to ensure goods purchased in the UK are not linked to deforestation but is not taking the same action for UK pensions and investments. The exposure of MPs’ pensions to companies like JBS, repeatedly linked to deforestation, shows that any law that does not create due diligence requirements in the financial sector will fail to protect delicate forest ecosystems and all but preclude global climate goals.”

“Every day, indigenous peoples and forest communities are standing up to protect their climate-critical forests – often in the face of attacks, land grabs and violence,” said Shona Hawkes, Senior Global Policy Advisor at Global Witness, “The UK government has rightly recognised we need to end the UK’s complicity in global deforestation – but to achieve this we must cut off the money pipeline from UK banks and investors. The Environment Bill must be strengthened so there is absolute clarity that no UK businesses, including financial institutions, can back companies that are a threat to forests or the people who depend on and defend them.”

One-fifth of the 150 financial institutions with the greatest influence on tropical deforestation, including Rabobank and UBS, have published policies for all key forest-risk commodities, which indicates that they recognise this issue as a priority. However, the absence of legal regulation means that accountability is in question.

This year, as the UK government hosts the G7 and the UN Climate Summit COP26, it has the opportunity to help forge strong global agreements and action on deforestation. The private sector is also increasingly pressuring Brazil and other forest nations to end deforestation. More than 40 companies, including investors and major retailers, recently issued an open letter pressuring Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to kill proposed legislation that would open up the Amazon to greater destruction.

“These findings reveal that parliamentary pensions—like most—are invested in companies that are out of step with our values as a society. We know from our own research that the public does not want to see their pensions fund practices such as deforestation that contribute to climate change, drive biodiversity loss and harm our planet,” said Huw Davies, Senior Finance Adviser at Make My Money Matter. “In fact, over half of UK pension holders would switch to a green pension if they discovered that theirs was invested in companies with links to deforestation*. We hope that this report will encourage all schemes to green their pension by not only committing to net-zero emissions, but also scanning for – and removing—any links to deforestation within their portfolios.”

World leaders have noted that action on climate change and biodiversity loss this decade is critical. Deforestation is the second-leading cause of carbon emissions globally, after burning fossil fuels, and a major contribution to species extinction. Agricultural expansion drives three-quarters of deforestation worldwide, with beef, soya and palm oil responsible for 59% overall.

*Survey conducted by YouGov and commissioned by Make My Money Matter in March 2021

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put food on the menu at COP26!

11th Mar 21 by Jessica Sinclair Taylor, Head of Policy

Food systems are a vital ingredient in solving the climate crisis.

Later this year, the next major climate negotiations, COP26, will be hosted in Glasgow and right now, diplomats and politicians are deciding on what will be discussed.

Changing the way we eat and how much food we waste are two of the single biggest actions governments can take to respond to the climate crisis. In fact, even if every other sector of the economy decarbonised, without addressing the climate damage caused by the food system, we can’t meet important climate goals. Meanwhile, changing the way we grow food and shifting to more regenerative production systems can help safeguard ecosystems and reduce carbon emissions, while producing healthy food. 

Despite this, how we produce and consume food isn’t even on the agenda for COP26!

Alok Sharma MP is president of COP26, leading the UK government’s diplomatic efforts to make the negotiations a success. He could raise food issues up the climate agenda and make sure it’s addressed at the meeting.

This week, over 30 organisations and individuals, including Feedback, Compassion in World Farming, RSPB and the Soil Association have written to Alok Sharma, asking him to put food systems on the table in his diplomatic efforts. Read the joint letter here

The letter calls for Alok Sharma to drive a change in policy and investment by bringing a focus on food systems. It also calls on him to make sure time and space is given to high-level discussions about food systems and climate policy.

Meanwhile, over 57,000 people have joined in, telling the COP26 team that food must be part of the climate effort to prevent dangerous global warming and ensure everyone has fair access to healthy food. You can add your voice by tweeting at Alok Sharma, or sharing the joint letter above.

The UK Government is already showing leadership on a joined up approach to food policy with its national food strategy for England, and by its commitment in the current NDC to healthy diets supported by a sustainable food system. Meanwhile, the Scottish Government is an early signatory to the Glasgow Declaration on food and climate, a commitment by subnational governments to adopt and implement integrated food policies to tackle climate change. Now, hosting COP26, the UK has an opportunity to show global leadership on the transition to sustainable food systems. 

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Time for supermarkets to meat the challenge

26th Jan 21 by Jessica Sinclair Taylor, Head of Policy

The vast majority of supermarkets’ climate burden lies in the goods they sell – reducing meat and dairy must be on their climate agenda.

Read Feedback’s new Market Brief Meating the climate challenge: Why supermarkets must urgently cut their meat and dairy sales

Last week Tesco launched its first ‘Green Bond’ – an event which went unsurprisingly largely unreported amid spiralling Coronavirus crisis in the UK and the inauguration of President Biden. The bond essentially allows Tesco to raise capital – a cool 750 million euros – against its Sustainability Performance Targets. These targets aim to reduce Tesco’s global Greenhouse Gas emissions from its direct activities – like energy used for heating and cooling stores and warehouses, delivery fleets and refrigerant gas leaks – by 60% by 2025, against a 2015 baseline.

While Tesco is an undoubted leader among UK retailers on sustainability transparency it is worth interrogating this news a little more closely. And indeed, there is a catch: while Tesco does have a target to reduce the emissions from the production of the goods it sells (by 17% by 2030), this target is not included in the list of KPIs against which it is raising the money.

This is a more serious omission than it may seem: emissions created in retailers supply chains, in the production of the goods they sell us, are up to seven times higher than those from their direct operations (like heating and cooling systems in shops and warehouses, or emissions from transporting goods). By ignoring the climate burden of the goods they sell, retailers like Tesco are effectively framing themselves as supermarkets with the emissions reduction strategies of a lorry company. While very few retailers publish a full breakdown of emissions produced in their supply chain, figures from a small Dutch retailer, Ahold Delhaize, suggest that its supply chain emissions dwarf its direct emissions by 19 times, and that meat fish and dairy makes up 38% of its supply chain emissions.

Few retailers match this level of reporting and target setting – but they will have to catch up, and fast, as investors and the public ask supermarkets to live up to sustainability claims. Nor will ‘this is hard to measure’ count as an excuse for much longer. And so to the meat of the matter – why retailers must square up to the role of animal agriculture in driving climate impacts. Today, Feedback publishes a new brief arguing:

  • Action is urgent on meat and dairy consumption

It’s more than apparent that industrial meat production is fanning the flames of the climate crisis – from chicken and pork fed on soya grown on deforested land in Brazil, to the excessive quantities of red meat we consume in the compared to the world average. A very recent systematic review of 18 academic studies showed consistent evidence of positive health impacts and low environmental footprints of diets congruent with government dietary guidelines, which suggest a lower consumption of meat and dairy. These health and environmental benefits don’t require universal veganism, but they do require a massive reduction of consumption of the most damaging forms of meat, as well as large-scale changes across the agricultural system to integrate agro-ecological and ‘livestock on leftovers’ approaches to producing the meat and dairy we do eat. Those changes will need policy leadership, but in the short-term, they’ll also need action from the most powerful businesses in our supply chain – retailers.

  • Supermarkets are uniquely placed to lead the way

While retailers tend to be squeamish about acknowledging their enormous influence on their shoppers’ food choices, the evidence is clear: food decisions are deeply influenced by our ‘food environment’ and supermarkets play a major role in shaping those environments. The surge in meat consumption in 2020 (sausage sales alone were up 17%) demonstrates the difficulty of resisting a food which has long been marketed to us as redolent of comfort and ‘treating yourself’. Yet retailer interventions can and do yield behaviour change: the Collaboration for Healthier Lives has evidenced that ‘nudges’ in-store (e.g. layout of goods, promotions and marketing) can change purchasing decisions.

  • Without retailer action, change may come too late

Finally, and most importantly, while there is growing interest in sustainable and healthy diets, a shift of the scale needed will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve without the collaboration and active participation of retailers – one of the few businesses with a reach across geographical locations and communities. If anything, the persistence of high meat sales, alongside an uptick of interest in flexitarianism and plant-based eating has indicated that providing choice alone will not answer without addressing the invisible drivers of high meat consumption, like the way food is marketed and branding (for a indicative look at the way supermarkets continue to resist the incentive to sell more meat as well as more plant-based products, see the persistence of marketing like ‘fake farm’ labels which continue to give an misleadingly bucolic impression of the way factory farmed meat is produced).

Increasingly, big food companies are responding to their social responsibility to lead the way on addressing the vast climate burden of our food system, with good reason. As CSR champions steel themselves to get their teeth into their company’s supply chain emissions problem, meat and dairy will have to be centre plate. Feedback will be monitoring commitments and action in the run up to our second retailer scorecard on meat and dairy reduction – watch this space.

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A plate for the planet

12th Dec 20 by Jessica Sinclair Taylor and Krysia Woroniecka

The UK takes a tentative step toward realising the enormous climate potential of food.

Today, five years on from the landmark Paris Agreement, the UK government hosted a major climate summit – a get together for governments designed to try to ramp up ambition ahead of next year’s COP26, the annual international climate negotiations which were delayed this year due to Covid-19.

The government also – with relatively little fanfare – published its first official submission setting out how it plans to ensure the UK contributes to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, its ‘Nationally Determined Contribution’ (NDC), the first post-Brexit (previously the UK shared a wider plan with other EU member states). Coming in the wake of a series of climate announcements this autumn, and on the back of the UN Secretary General’s call for countries around the world to declare a climate emergency, as the UK has already done, its fair to say the pressure is on for the UK to set an ambitious tone.

Feedback have been waiting with particular to interest to see what, if anything, this plan would have to say about food. The research is very clear: an Oxford University study published in November, only the latest in a long series of papers with similar conclusions, demonstrated that without action on food system emissions, and even if all other sectors were immediately net zero from 2020, we would likely surpass the greenhouse gas emissions limit needed to keep the world under a 1.5°C increase in temperatures. Taking into account that other sectors are not net zero from 2020, and instead assuming a (still ambitious) linear decarbonisation of non-food sectors from 2020 to 2050, we would surpass the 1.5°C emissions limit by 2031. In other words, we really need to act on food, and fast.

And it seems there’s good news – the UK’s NDC says:

‘The UK is committed to delivering a national shift to healthy diets supported by a sustainable food system which contributes towards a reduction in GHG emissions. The Resources and
Waste Strategy sets out England’s plans to move away from a linear economy, towards a more circular and sustainable economy in which natural resources are used efficiently and waste is minimised.”

This is important because, up until now, very few national climate plans have had any focus on food, despite the fact that, as the UK’s official climate advisors, the Committee on Climate Change, said last week, action like a move towards sustainable diets, and reducing food waste, are ‘low-cost, no regret measures’. They recommended a 20-40% reduction in meat and dairy consumption by 2030, and a halving of food waste from the field to the fork, by the same date. Unlike, say, complex and as yet unproven technology to capture carbon emissions from energy production and store them so they don’t escape into the atmosphere, reducing waste and eating less meat and dairy needs no new technology, and can be implemented straight away. These measures also have major co-benefits – reducing food waste frees up land, because less space is taken up growing food that is never eaten, and land is urgently needed to grow trees and make more space for nature. Eating less meat and dairy is already recommended by the NHS’ dietary guidelines, and has positive implications for public health – something, post-Covid, we’re all more aware of than ever.

The devil, of course, is in the detail, and there’s little enough of that on how these goals could be achieved – the NDC references the UK’s new National Food Strategy, coming out in January, and it is vital that this strategy grasps the thorny question of not only how to move beyond the UK’s stalling progress on food waste, but also how to fairly and equitably reduce our meat and dairy production and consumption.

There is plenty to do to pave the way for future dietary policy.  At an international level, championing food system measures may help other countries take steps towards realising their climate potential – as hosts of next year’s negotiations, the UK can push for national food systems targets at the COP26. Importantly they can also work on raising awareness domestically through testing measures to shift the public towards healthier diets, increasing education on plant-rich cooking in communities and schools alongside funding plant-rich menus in schools and public institutions through public procurement rules. There is no substitute for leadership, and leadership is very much what is needed right now.

We also need to see some strong signals to the private sector that it too must act. Supermarkets, always key players in the nation’s food culture, also need to take action on diets, and are well placed to make plant rich options appear appealing, normal and easy by promoting low or no meat substitutes, printing a comparison of personal versus average food shop emissions on the backs of the receipts and addressing negative stereotypes such as real men eat meat. However, without government incentives to sell less meat, supermarkets will struggle to go against their imperative to sell more. It will be down to our leaders to take the next opportunity to give the public the sustainability leadership they expect to see.

On food waste, we need attention not just on our plates and fridges at home, but also up the supply chain, on the approximately 3.6 million tonnes of food wasted before it even leaves the farm-gates. An issue, with the spectre of post-Brexit disruption to food supply chains, likely to become even more glaring in the months to come. Of course, wasting food also means wasting the land, soil, fossil fuels and water used to grow it. Halving UK food waste from farm to fork, and then planting trees on some of the spared land, would mitigate up to approximately 11% of UK’s total emissions. At the citizen end of the supply chain, little attention has been paid to how the way that food corporations shape our food environment affects how must we waste, or to the fact that widespread household food waste is in essence an issue of over-purchase. More on how to solve this problem can be found in our recent food waste policy brief.

The climate crisis we face can only be face together. It’s governments’ responsibility around the world not to turn their faces away from this challenge, not to hope that someone else will deal with it. To avoid catastrophic global heating, we need to imagine the most ambitious path we can to a better future and throw everything we have at making this a reality, using the best available evidence as our guide. That evidence says we must act on food. The government has taken a first step – now it’s time to hold them to it. Write to your MP now and call on them to ensure that food is centre table in the UK’s climate plans going forwards.

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Sainsbury’s fails to live up to claims on sustainable aquaculture

12th Nov 20 by Jessica Sinclair Taylor, Head of Policy

Sainsbury’s claims its ‘bespoke diet’ protects natural resources from over-fishing’, but fails to live up to its commitments.

Supermarket Sainsbury’s describes itself as ‘leading the way in sustainable fish’ (1), yet ranked 6th in a ranking of retailers on sustainable farmed seafood. Sainsbury’s farmed salmon – one of its major seafood sellers (3) – in particular fails to match up to its own sustainability claims according to a new market brief from Changing Markets and Feedback. Their research shows that the feed Sainsbury’s farmed salmon is fed has damaging environmental and social impacts. They also highlight wider concerns over business practices of Mowi, the Norwegian-owned global salmon farming giant, which is Sainsbury’s main supplier (4).

Sainsbury’s farmed salmon packaging states: ‘The salmon are fed a bespoke diet designed to protect our natural resources from overfishing and guarantee great taste and nutritional benefit for you’ (5). But Feedback calculates that in 2019, Mowi used 880,000 tonnes of wild fish in its global operations, sourced from countries such as Mauritania and Peru, to produce just 436,000 tonnes of farmed salmon (6) – more wild fish than the total fisheries capture of Canada, at 720,000 tonnes in 2018 (7).

More sustainable feed options, such as using non-fish ingredients, or by-products from fish that was caught for human consumption, do exist, but neither Mowi nor Sainsbury’s has adopted a policy to phase out wild fish in its salmon feed. Earlier this year, Sainsbury’s ranked below Tesco, Co-op, Waitrose, M&S and Lidl in a scorecard assessing supermarket chains’ sustainability policy on farmed seafood (8), obtaining a lowly score of 20%.

The campaigners also raised concerns about mortalities on Mowi farms in Scotland, where Sainsbury’s sources its salmon. Between January and September 2020, Mowi reported over 1.1 million salmon mortalities to the Scottish government fish inspectorate (9). This is the second highest figure of all large salmon farming companies operating in Scotland, though reporting standards varied between companies. In addition, Mowi’s Scottish farms have seen high numbers of farmed salmon escapes, 124,000 in two separate incidents this year (10), raising concerns for further impacts on Scotland’s dwindling wild salmon population, which is suffering the effects of by inter-breeding with escaped farmed salmon (11).

Natasha Hurley, Campaign Manager at Changing Markets said:

“We’re shocked at Sainsbury’s misleading claim that its farmed salmon diets prevent overfishing. This is demonstrably untrue: the reality is, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of wild fish – which could feed millions of people – are ground into fish meal and fish oil just to feed farmed salmon on Mowi farms. Fishing communities in Asia and Africa are deprived of valuable protein just so that wealthier consumers in the UK can buy cheap salmon. Salmon farming is big business, but while the Sainsbury’s-Mowi partnership may be lucrative for both sides, it is a terrible deal for the health of global fisheries.”

Jessica Sinclair Taylor, Head of Policy at Feedback said:

“Sainsbury’s trumpets the fact that it only sources Scottish farmed salmon, claiming to support rural communities, but neglects to mention that its sole supplier, Mowi, is a multi-national business listed on the Norwegian stock exchange: hardly the rural fish farmers Sainsbury’s website makes out.

“Mortalities this high are a colossal waste – not just of the salmon themselves, but also of the wild fish caught to feed them. To live up to its own marketing, Sainsbury’s must commit to phasing out the use of wild-caught fish to feed its farmed fish by 2025 at the latest, and use its purchasing power to ensure that its suppliers, like Mowi, immediately take steps to comply with this commitment.”

Read Changing Markets and Feedback’s new brief The Hidden Cost of Farmed Salmon: Exploring why Sainsbury’s farmed salmon supplier Mowi doesn’t live up to its sustainable image and what Sainsbury’s needs to do about it’.

  2. ‘Caught out: How UK retailers are tackling the use of wild fish in their aquaculture supply chains’ was published in March 2020 –
  3. Farmed salmon is one of the UK’s most popular seafood products: in the 52 weeks to June 2020, UK farmed salmon sales were worth £1.1 billion. With 14.3% of the seafood retail market share, this translates into an estimated £157 million worth of yearly sales for Sainsbury’s (reference ‘Hidden Cost of Farmed Salmon’)
  4. Mowi is a vertically integrated aquaculture company and the world’s biggest salmon producer by volume and revenue. In 2019 it harvested 435,904 gutted weight tonnes of salmon, equivalent to 19% of total industry output. Headquartered in Bergen, it operates in 25 countries worldwide. It recorded a 2018 revenue of €3.8 billion. A video on Sainsbury’s website suggests Mowi is its sole supplier:
  5. See Sainsbury’s labelling:
  6. According to its 2019 Annual Report, Mowi sourced 52,391 tonnes of fishmeal and 44,490 tonnes of fish oil for use in its aquafeed. Based on data on the volume and sources of fish oil used by Mowi, and industry wide information on the yield of fish oil from whole wild fish (4.8% according to the global marine ingredients industry body, IFFO) this means that Mowi’s feed production operations relied on an estimated 880,000 tonnes of wild-caught fish, in a year when the company produced 436,000 tonnes of harvested farmed salmon. To put this in context, 880,000 tonnes of wild fish is more than the 2018 global marine capture for the whole of Canada. This figure is calculated based on publicly available information, and data communicated in a formal response by Mowi to Feedback in September 2019.
  8. ‘Caught out: How UK retailers are tackling the use of wild fish in their aquaculture supply chains’ was published by Feedback and Changing Markets in March 2020.
  9. All mortality numbers calculated from (downloaded 9 November 2020). The average weight of 3kg is a weighted average based on reported Mowi mortality events alone.
  10. In two standalone incidents in Scotland in 2020, in January and August, 74,000 and 50,000 salmon escaped from MOWI farms respectively
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Why food needs to be at the centre of our climate plate

6th Nov 20 by Krysia Woroniecka, Food and Climate Policy Project Manager

Why savouring glorious food in our climate plan is an opportunity we can all get behind.

As we follow the back and forth of the US election result, we also remember that this week marks one year until COP26 – the next round of the UN’s annual negotiations on how to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement to reign in run away climate change.

A year from now, world leaders and climate experts will meet in Glasgow, hosted by the UK government. It’s a big moment for the UK on the international stage – our chance to meet the ambition of the Paris Agreement, and set the agenda.

With the US tipping in and out of the picture (Trump took the US out of the Paris Agreement, and Biden has pledged to rejoin), and countries like China, Japan and South Korea stepping up their climate pledges, one important element is missing in action: food. Both an integral part of our everyday lives and a huge piece of our individual and collective impact on our environment, food needs to be considered at every level of climate policy, from local commitments to national plans.

In fact, new research published this week shows that even if we stopped emissions from fossil fuels tomorrow, emissions from the global food system alone would make it impossible to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal to prevent dangerous warming.

That’s why Feedback is calling for the Prime Minister to make sure food – and specifically food waste and sustainable diets – is a core part of the UK’s climate plan, due to be announced next month. You can join us by writing to Boris Johnson too.

Many of us are aware of the environmental damage caused by fossil fuels and flying but the food on our plate can often be overlooked. Food represents all the precious resources required to produce it, including land and water. The environmental footprint of our food increases for products like factory farmed meat as it requires large amounts of feed. Furthermore, food waste represents a waste of the precious resources used to produce food and also when sent to landfill leads to emissions.

Cutting food waste in half and switching to healthy, low-meat, plant-based diets in industrialised, high-income countries has huge benefits for our health and the health of our planet. Yet, so far, food waste and sustainable diets are not mentioned in a single country’s climate plan.

Write to Boris Johnson now asking him to put food waste in the UK’s climate plan.

The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the need for a resilient food system, but it has also allowed us to re-evaluate what is possible.  It has exposed our risky dependency on global food supply chains and impacted our food security. In the UK for example since the lockdown began, four times as many adults are experiencing food insecurity as were before it started. It has also brought to light that the same issues that drive climate change, such as food waste and excessive meat consumption, also increase the risk of pandemics, according to a new report by the IPBES. Preventing pandemics rather than reacting to them, like climate change, will save lives and help protect our natural world.

We can't afford to let this opportunity go to waste

At a time of climate emergency, it’s vital that we all pull together to reduce food waste. We rely on donations from our supporters to carry out this vital work. Will you help us end food waste?

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The Bucks Food Revolution is here!

2nd Nov 20 by Becca Nutley, Buckinghamshire Food Citizens Coordinator

Join Feedback and friends for the Bucks Food Revolution! An online festival taking place on the 21st & 22nd November 2020.

Join Feedback and friends for the Bucks Food Revolution! An online festival taking place on the 21st & 22nd November 2020.

From Feedback’s Food Citizens in Buckinghamshire project, we bring you a programme of exciting and unusual events exploring our relationship with food, from foraging berries in the outdoors, to waste-saving tips and recipes, to a deep dive into how we can work together to protect nature and our planet. We will be hearing from local experts and enthusiasts on growing food, understanding how what you eat affects your health and well-being; as well as discussing the pitfalls of food waste and how to avoid them at home – there is even a food themed story-time session for kids! Our highlight is an online screening of David Attenborough’s new documentary ‘A Life on Our Planet’. The film provides an opportunity for us all to respond and create change in the world for our future generation: topped off with an open invite to our Q&A panel session to do just that after the screening. We are grateful to all those helping the Food Citizens project to deliver this event and we are excited about seeing you there!

All events are free, online, and you do not need to be a resident of Buckinghamshire to attend, though many of the events will have a local Bucks flavour.

Full programme

Saturday 21 November

Material Habitat: Harvesting Colour from Nature


Join Rachel Jones, an artist, gardener, researcher, and foraging enthusiast as she takes us on an engaging and informative journey into her dye garden! Be inspired to grow a seasonal palette of colour that looks as fabulous in garden, vase or on the plate as it does on cloth, wood, and other materials. Rachel will also give an insight into how the plants around you can also be used as dye; as well as creating a wealth of preserves and liquids. Sign up to join online.


Saturday 21 November

Eating with Nature


It is no great secret that eating food as close as we can to its natural source gives us the best nutritional value; as well as it using up less energy and resources. Agricultural crops have been developed for many years for taste, colour, pest resistance, uniformity, and – most significantly – high production numbers! The nutrition levels are rarely high on the tick list. On the other hand, plants growing in nature have motivation to accumulate as many nutrients as possible, give back into the soil around them and they still taste good too! Eating with Nature gives you an insight in how you can approach food production differently, how you can engage with practices that support a better food system and encourage sustainable diets. The session also includes a preserving demonstration. Sign up to join online.

Saturday 21 November

Repurposing food waste – Christmas gifts


Join Hubbub chef Mark Breen for a make-your-own food waste fighting Christmas gift with food courtesy of the Bucks community fridges. We guarantee you’ll leave with 3 ‘simple-to-source’ homemade gift ideas along with some simple ways to cut your own waste over the festive period. Sign up to join online.

Saturday 21 November

Food Tales – Children’s Story Time


Calling all children and families to join this fantastic feast of foodie tales to celebrate Bucks Food Revolution. How many stories can you think of that include food? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Hansel and Gretel or James and the Giant Peach…..when you think about it there is a lot!

Lead by storyteller Terrie Howey (Red Phoenix), this food themed storytelling workshop for those primarily 6-12 years old explores scrumptious stories and culinary capers encouraging participants think about their connection with food and create their own foodie fables to share. Sign up to join online.

Saturday 21 November

Film Screening: ‘A Life On Our Planet’ & Q&A panel


David Attenborough’s Netflix documentary, ‘A Life on Our Planet’ covers many environmental themes, with a specific focus on agriculture, deforestation, energy and marine conservation. The film not only presents how all of these issues are currently contributing to climate change and biodiversity loss, but also offers solutions based around each of these issues to ensuring a safe and sustainable future for our planet and its people. The film provides an opportunity for us all to respond and create change in the world for our future generation. Join us to watch this award winning film then for a discussion with our expert panel afterwards. Sign up to join online.

Sunday 22 November

Sunday 22 November

Clearing the plate! Reducing food waste in the home


Exploring what happens with the food that isn’t eaten and how we can adapt our home life for better environmental impact. Did you know it costs more than £430,000 to dispose of food waste in Buckinghamshire each year? In this session, we will be exploring what happens with the food that isn’t eaten in the home. Sign up to join online.

Sunday 22 November

Growing in the community


Tending your garden provides the added benefits of physical exercise and mental relaxation: with the added bonus of eating fresh, seasonal and healthy food.

However, not everyone has the available space, confidence and resources to have their own garden. This is where the demand for community gardens and growing projects have risen over the last 6 months, with more people realising the inadequacies of the UK food system and the passion to become more self- sustainable.

Community gardening can bring a wide range of benefits- from connecting people with each other, to growing fresh food to enjoy. There are many schemes and projects across Bucks that welcome new visitors and Growing in the Community hopes to highlight key place that offer people a place to relax, a way to engage with nature, meet others and get active outdoors. Sign up to join online.

Sunday 22 November

EcoWise – Improving your relationship with food


Food, whether we acknowledge it or not, has a strong connection with how we navigate our own behaviours, habits, and emotional well-being. So many things drive us to eat — it’s midday and that means lunchtime, it’s midnight and that means snack time, we’re happy, we’re anxious, we’d rather not bring home leftovers, we’re too polite to say no, we’re bored, and …. hang on has someone brought in cake! Rude not to! However, food is not just a commodity, it is also a key ingredient in how we as humans can make small changes to help support the recovery of the climate crisis.

This webinar highlights the need to adapt our mind-set to create a better relationship with the food we eat, where it comes from and how our choices as a food citizen can make an impact on a better food system for the future generations to come. Sign up to join online.

Sunday 22 November

Bad Habits – Reducing Food Waste in the Kitchen


At a time when environmental issues are quickly climbing the national agenda, it’s sobering to be reminded that 7.1 million tonnes of food is wasted every year in UK homes. That’s not only a massive waste of the Earth’s resources, but a waste of money too – about £230 per person annually in the UK! We will be looking at ‘Bad Habits in the Kitchen’, where the common pitfalls occur and how can we prevent further waste through a few easy practices. We will be looking at how food storage can change the shelf life of your food, date labels and what they mean along with a few freezing hacks. Sign up to join online.

Sunday 22 November

Buckinghamshire Allotment and Gardening Open Forum


Calling all allotment holders and keen gardeners!

Join us for a Sunday evening get-together for an open forum to discuss how 2020 has impacted on your gardens and plots. Many of us have missed chatting over our crops or a chance to ask advice or share success stories; so we thought we would celebrate all things growing related over a slice of cake and a cuppa. (refreshments unfortunately can not be supplied)

Feel free to bring photos, jars of preserved goodies or ‘show and tell’ garden objects.

Hosted by Sheila Bees. Sign up to join online.

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When there’s no waste, there’s a way to net zero

28th Oct 20 by Jessica Sinclair Taylor, Head of Policy

Addressing food waste is a no regrets policy option on the road to net zero - but it needs a regulatory approach.

Feedback’s policy brief, When there’s no waste, there’s a way (to net zero), was published today.

It is hardly controversial to say that we should address food waste: in fact, this is a rare environmental issue where there seems to be resounding agreement from politicians, the public and the food industry. However, this consensus has not translated into meaningful action – and to tackle Climate Change this needs to happen.

Food waste represents a significant climate and environmental burden – both in terms of direct greenhouse gas emissions generated from growing, processing or disposing of food that is wasted, and in terms of the land use opportunity cost. Globally, growing food that is ultimately wasted uses up to 28% of the world’s agricultural area. In a world that is increasingly land-hungry, as our agricultural frontiers expand and demand grows for space for rewilding and afforestation, food waste is quite simply a waste of space. Based on a recent Life Cycle Assessment, Feedback calculated that if we halved UK food waste and reforested liberated domestic grassland, we could deliver around 4% of the UK’s emissions cuts to reach net zero. Compared to more controversial measures, such as reducing meat consumption, food waste would seem a no brainer.

But we are not taking full advantage of this climate opportunity, by a long shot. At a corporate level, voluntary business-led action has led to a measurement and management-oriented approach, in which progress has been  slow – as we explain in our new policy brief, retail food waste has reduced by around 0.5% per year since 2009, and while manufacturing waste has fallen much faster, waste in the hospitality and food service sector is estimated to have increased by nearly 20%. Government has largely ceded the food waste space to both corporates, who are lauded (and even publicly funded) for new schemes to give away their surplus, and civil society, who redistribute vast quantities of food to those in need, effectively providing a free disposal service for industry surplus. Food surplus and food poverty are seen as two sides of the same coin  with little attention to the entirely separate root causes of both problems, even as a debate on poverty and food access reignites around the English government’s failure to provide Free School Meals during the half-term holidays.

It’s time for more evidence of what drives this problem and what works to solve it. Food waste is first and foremost not a moral or social issue, but an environmental one. While less effective at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions than switching to more sustainable diets, food waste is one of the major levers available to high-income countries to reduce their climate burdens. Yet no higher income countries, including the UK, which prides itself on international leadership on food waste, has included this issue as a part of a systematic food system mitigation policy, or included it in their Nationally Determined Contribution – the pledge each country makes to bring down emissions to levels required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. With COP26 being hosted in Glasgow next year there has never been a better opportunity for  for food waste to step out of the wings and make its debut on the climate action stage.

In Feedback’s policy brief, we diagnose some of the reasons for slow progress so far, including:

  • The limitations of a voluntary approach – while business agreements and targets have generated considerable progress, they have also run up against some integral challenges and limitations. These include a tendency for ambition to be lowered to suit the least engaged participants, for action by industry leaders to obscure the lack of action by others, and for low participation rates to stymy cross-industry action: 15 years after the first UK food waste agreement, under 10% of major food businesses have committed to even full transparency on their food waste figures.
  • A focus on behaviour, not environments – it has been difficult to ascertain why our society and economy wastes so much food, largely because there has been a focus on small tweaks and technical fixes, rather than a deep look at the ways in which our ‘waste-ogenic’ environment has come about (to borrow from the public health term ‘obseogenic environment’ – an set of environmental conditions which contribute to and encourage obesity). Waste is embedded in modern food cultures which to a large extent have been shaped by the major food businesses in our supply chain – supermarkets.
  • Reluctance to imposes costs on food businesses – while food waste is a form of pollution, and thus should rightly be subject to the ‘polluter pays’ principle, policy frameworks have largely allowed and encouraged the idea that food businesses should be praised or even paid to continue to generate large volumes of waste, so long as that surplus is reabsorbed into the food system via charitable food redistribution. There has been little policy attention on how penalties and incentives could overlap to ensure food businesses take fiscal responsibility for their waste both up and down the supply chain.
  • Conflating redistribution with prevention – Surplus should be used to feed people, where it is safe and healthy to do so. However, food waste is not a solution to food poverty, and by framing action on food waste primarily around redistribution, public policy misses an important first step to prevent food waste occurring in the first place, including by looking at causes throughout the supply chain, such as on farms.
  • Reluctance to address root causes – Food waste is a problem of the supermarket age: today four retailers control 66% of the groceries market share and at least three out of four citizens visited a supermarket at least once in the last week. The scale and pervasiveness of today’s food waste is simply not something that previous generations, who shopped differently, would recognise. Amid talk of supermarket leadership on food waste, there needs to be recognition of the reality that there is no financial incentive for retailers to minimise waste in households – quite the reverse in fact. Dividing the value of household food waste by the market share of the major retailers tell us that food waste in homes was worth up to £4bn to Tesco alone in 2015. At the beginning of the supply chain, on farms, there is still reluctance to fund the proper measurement and analysis which would allow us to understand and address why around an estimated quarter of UK food waste occurs in primary production.

A serious policy framework to address waste is needed, and crucially, this must incorporate an ambitious regulatory approach. Voluntary business action has got us so far, but to realise the true potential of food waste reduction for climate mitigation, we now need a more comprehensive approach, one that can only be delivered by government, through waste, farming and food policy. Below we set out a summary of our recommendations.

We face an important moment of opportunity: the UK plans to release its Nationally Determined Contribution later this year – our plan for reaching our net zero national target and our flag in the sand inspiring other countries to reach for greater ambition ahead of COP26 in Glasgow in 2021. We urge the UK government to take this opportunity to be the first higher income country to integrate comprehensive food systems policy, including a serious plan to address food waste, into our national climate policy. At COP26, food systems must be on the agenda, and no better place to start than with food waste.

  • Integrate ambitious food waste reduction targets, in line with the goal to halve food waste throughout the supply chain by 2030 against a 2015 baseline, into climate strategies and legislation:
    • Adopt an ambitious food waste goal in the UK’s 2020 Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), including a national binding target to reduce food waste (both edible and inedible) by 50% from farm to fork by 2030, against 2015 baselines.
    • Model and implement an ambitious policy pathway to achieve a 50% reduction in food waste by 2030.
  • Harness and enforce existing waste legislation and implement the ambitions set out in the Waste and Resources Strategy:
    • Develop an effective, UK-wide food waste data baseline, including funding top-down approaches to collecting data in hard to measure sectors such as hospitality and on farms.
    • Bring forward the government’s plans to make food waste reporting and reduction targets mandatory for all large businesses, in line with an ambitious UK target to reduce food waste from farm to fork by 50% by 2030, against a 2015 baseline.
    • Put in place the regulatory, fiscal and enforcement regime to operationalise the food use hierarchy, as per the ‘polluter pays’ principle.
    • Extend the government’s ambition to eliminate food waste in landfill or to incineration by 2030, to support a genuinely circular economy, and in the short term, increase taxes on landfill and incineration.
  • Capitalise on the opportunities of new food and farming policy to support food waste prevention on farms:
    • Instrumentalise the provisions of the Agriculture Bill and Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) to both incentivise and enable the measurement of on-farm food waste and to incentivise the reduction of food surplus occurring in primary production.
  • Harness market frameworks and business practices for food waste prevention:
    • Ensure UK and overseas farmers, including indirect suppliers, can have recourse to the Groceries Code Adjudicator for waste incurred on their farms as a result of unfair trading practices.
    • Undertake a post-Covid review of the groceries supply chain to identify points of intervention to increase the diversity and resilience of supply chains and reduce waste.
  • Put in place the conditions for transformative change in the groceries market:
    • Enable greater citizen agency over their food.
    • Support the shortening of supply chains and more regional food production and distribution and the regional use of surplus crops to allow better food access.
    • Support the diversification of the food sector, boosting the scale and reach of alternative business forms to displace the dominance of the supermarket.

Read the full policy brief and recommendations.

What can you do next?
How long does it take: 5 minutes

Setting an ambitious goal to halve food waste, as quickly as possible, can help the UK take a big step towards achieving our climate goals. We face a golden opportunity: Boris Johnson is announcing the UK’s climate plan in December, and this is the perfect time to urge him to include ambitious action on food waste.

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How long does it take: 3 minutes

Food waste has been on the corporate policy agenda for years - but how much real progress has been made, and what is the role of government, both local and national, in creating change? In this webinar, Feedback and Sustain team up to take a close look at the role of food waste, and wider sustainable food system measures, in an effective policy for the climate emergency.

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Bad Energy? The perverse promotion of energy from food

7th Sep 20 by Martin Bowman, Senior Policy and Campaigns Manager

Biogas has been presented as a silver bullet for the climate crisis – but it is often a sticking plaster holding up more fundamental change.

Biogas has been presented as a silver bullet for the climate crisis – but it is often a sticking plaster obscuring the need for more fundamental change. This is the first in a series of blog posts exploring the findings of our new report Bad Energy (you can read the Executive Summary here).

You could be forgiven for never having heard of anaerobic digestion – it’s a far less well known form of renewable energy than wind or solar. Whereas big strides have been made to turn our electricity green, shifting the gas supply is more challenging. Anaerobic digestion (AD) – the process of producing “biogas” from organic matter like crops and wastes – has presented itself as the silver bullet to this conundrum. It promises to do everything from produce green gas for heating, to deal with food waste and manure, to produce fertiliser for our crops, to product biofuels for transport. A recent AD industry gathering was boldly entitled ‘There’s No Net Zero Without Biogas’. On the surface, what’s not to like?

New research from Feedback shows the picture is not as simple as it appears. The truth is that AD only looks good when it is compared with terrible alternatives – like food left to rot in landfill, manures left in lagoons belching methane, and coal and oil burnt for fuel.

None of those things should be part of a healthy, sustainable energy or food system – in fact, it is clear that only the highest ambition will save us from the climate crisis. To avoid climate disaster, we need to imagine the most ambitious path we can to a better future and throw everything we have at making this a reality, using the best available evidence as our guide. And we do not have the luxury of settling for second best – even when it would suit some investors’ profit margins.

In this light, Feedback set out a year ago to investigate what role AD has in an optimal sustainable future, collaborating with researchers at Bangor University. Today, we launch the report of our findings: Bad Energy: Defining the true role of biogas in a net zero future. We found that, at best, AD is a sub-optimal sticking plaster solution, and at worst, it is sometimes actually perpetuating the problems it claims to solve. There is undoubtedly a limited role for AD in a sustainable future, but it must be kept to a “sustainable niche” so that it does not crowd out better solutions. It’s a complex tale – AD can be used to convert everything from household food scraps to livestock manure and purpose-grown crops like maize into biogas – so in this blog, we’ll start by looking at food waste.

The study found that preventing food waste results in direct emissions savings over 9 times higher than sending food waste to AD – and about 40 times higher when trees are planted on the spared grassland. And 3 times more emissions are saved by sending food waste to animal feed than to AD. This isn’t a suprise: Feedback have been using the food use hierarchy for years to demonstrate that by far the best thing to do about food waste is to prevent it happening in the first place. But public policy hasn’t always followed this ideal.

Currently millions in public money is poured into subsidising AD plants, while addressing food waste are neglected and left to voluntary action by businesses. This risks perfectly edible food being diverted to AD from these better options.

Our most stunning finding came when we scaled this up to national level. We found that halving UK food waste through ambitious regulation, and planting trees on the 3 million hectares of grassland that would be spared by this, would save and offset the equivalent of 11% of the UK’s total emissions. That is more than the emissions of the UK’s entire domestic agriculture sector – a sector usually considered difficult to decarbonise.

In addition, halving UK food waste would save 800,000 hectares of cropland, enough to grow potatoes and peas to feed 28% of the UK population. At a time when UK food security will be tested by a pandemic and potential no deal Brexit, it is vital to cultivate local sustainable production.

Currently, most food businesses in the UK are keeping their food waste figures hidden, and have done for years, so it’s hard to properly track progress and hold malingerers to account. We still don’t have reliable figures for the UK’s on-farm food waste at all, due to lack of government funding. We can and must do better than this, but now the government must step up.

And for that, we need regulation. We’ve relied for too long on purely voluntary action. By now, the industry leaders who will take action without regulation have emerged – leaving the rest of the industry is firmly committed to business as usual. Before the pandemic, the government promised a consultation this year on whether to make it a legal obligation for large businesses to measure and report their food waste. It’s now time to deliver on this. But we need to go beyond measurement to action. We also need to make it compulsory for these large businesses to sign up to food waste agreements, to level the playing field so free riders and businesses dragging their feet do not slow everyone down. And then the government must make these companies act – by setting binding legal targets for the UK to halve UK food waste by 2030, from 2015 levels.

Want to see action? Call on the government to step up its action on food waste.

Watch out for more articles about Bad Energy coming up, including on bioenergy crops and the livestock industry.

What can you do next?
Tell government businesses must come clean on food waste

Millions of tonnes of food are being fed to digesters for energy. Preventing food waste would result in emissions savings nine times higher.

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As workers sicken with Covid-19, US meat giants clock up record dividends

20th Aug 20 by Daniel Jones, Big Livestock Campaign Manager

Who profits from the US meat processing sectors bumper pay-outs?

During April and May, as the Covid-19 pandemic gripped the US meatpacking industry, the four biggest US meat companies – Tyson, WH Group, JBS and Hormel – announced bumper pay-outs to their shareholders. These three corporations alone paid dividends that took their annual pay-outs to shareholders to over $1 billion (Table 1). They did so against a grim picture.

At the time of writing, almost 40,000 meatpacking workers – many at Tyson, Smithfield (WH Group) and JBS factories – have caught Covid-19. 184 workers have lost their lives. Tyson and JBS face a lawsuit claiming that their actions during the pandemic amounted to racial discrimination against their predominantly black, Latino and Asian workers – who experienced 87% of the Covid-19 cases in meat-processing plants. And a Senate investigation is scrutinising Tyson Foods, JBS, Cargill, & Smithfield Foods (WH Group) who “exported massive amounts of pork and other meats to China while threatening the American public with impending shortages”.

Less than a fortnight after taking out full-page adverts in the New York Times and Washington Post warning that ‘The food supply chain is breaking’, Tyson announced a quarterly dividend to take its annual pay-outs to shareholders of over $600 million. Days after closing the South Dakota factory that had become ‘America’s Biggest Outbreak’, Smithfield’s parent company, WH Group announced a record dividend for its shareholders – a payout that at HK$0.265 per share – totalled around $500 million.

And it is not only the public companies paying out record sums to their shareholders. The private meat and grain giant Cargill in July this year paid out $1.13 billion to its billionaire family owners. The secretive National Beef – often considered as one of the ‘Big 4’ US meatpackers – will also be paying dividends according to its biggest shareholder, the Brazilian beef giant Marfrig. National Beef and Marfrig, together with their public counterparts Tyson, WH Group, JBS and Hormel control two-thirds of US meat production.

Colossal shareholder payouts during the pandemic were rife among Big Ag. GRAIN a civil-society organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems has documented record payouts to Nestle, Bayer and others – companies using their powerful connections to advance ‘Agro-imperialism in the time of Covid-19’.

So who profited from these payouts? It’s not just Cargill’s family billionaires and investment giants like Blackrock. Around a third of these shares are held by pension funds, more still by insurance companies. So depending on your pension fund – if you are lucky enough to have one through your employer – it could be you and me too. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather retire into a world without industrial animal agriculture and one where worker’s lives aren’t put on the line in a global pandemic so we can continue to consume vast quantities of factory-farmed bacon. It’s time we stopped Butchering the Planet.

Table 1 – The dividends of the largest publicly-listed US meat companies

Company Dividend
Tyson $600 million
WH Group (Smithfield) $500 million
JBS $275 million
Hormel $125 million

Payments either final dividends or annualised for the 2020 fiscal year. All announced in April or May 2020. Either sourced from company announcements to shareholders or calculated as the number of shares * dividend per share = Total dividend.

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Hundreds of food boxes delivered to people struggling to feed their families

10th Aug 20 by Jessica Sinclair Taylor

The Liverpool Echo reports on the work of Feedback's Alchemic Kitchen team in Knowsley.

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Feedback responds to the National Food Strategy – Part 1

30th Jul 20 by Jessica Sinclair Taylor

Feedback welcomes part one of the National Food Strategy report, by Henry Dimbleby, published yesterday. In our evidence submitted to the National Food Strategy team we argued that, fundamentally, we now need to reorient our food production around a new understanding of productivity, one that includes human health and the wellbeing of our planet and ecosystems. We looked at the interactions between what we grow and what we eat, and the health of our climate and biodiversity. The separation within policy-making between environmental and planetary health on the one hand, and human health on the other, creates a false dichotomy which prevents us addressing obvious absurdities in our food system. One glaring example, in the face of obesity-driven deaths from Covid-19, are agricultural subsidies to grow sugar beet on an area of land roughly equivalent to that used to grow vegetables, in direct contradiction to a levy on sugary drinks designed to reduce consumption. Bringing considerations of supply and demand together is more likely to result in holistic and effective policy-making. 

Henry Dimbleby faces the formidable task of doing this across the UK’s food system. However, in this first report, Dimbleby responds to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the food system, alongside the impending end to the UK’s transition period for leaving the EU, two events with fundamental implications for how we grow, access and consume food.

We welcome the report’s focus, during a window of opportunity that is fast disappearing, on the potential to recover from Covid-19 in a way that leaves us with a better food system: broadly, we would argue, one which is fair, resilient and inclusive, that delivers delivers good food with maximum health and nutrition, minimum environmental impact, and that guarantees good livelihoods. We need recipes for recovery which take a pinch from multiple priorities to cook up a flavourful and nourishing dish: better rights for food workers (some of the worst hit groups by both pandemic job losses and Covid-19 itself), a resilient supply chain which delivers what local areas need rather than what generates the greatest corporate profit; and access to delicious, healthy food for everyone, including those most marginalised and most impacted by the pandemic and its fallout. 

We share the report’s concerns that, on top of existing high-levels of inequality-driven ill-health caused by poor diets, the UK faces a surge in poverty driven by the economic impacts of the pandemic, and the government’s priorities in protecting business and society. We welcome the focus on poverty and lack of access to good food, and on the practical proposal to support families which are needed to address these issues. We hope the government, which only begrudgingly extended the Free School Meal voucher scheme over the summer, heeds the call to draw far more children into the scheme and to greatly increase the capacity of summer holiday programmes to meet children’s nutritional needs while school is out. 

The Strategy, rightly, has much to say about the different impacts the pandemic crisis has had on people working in different parts of our food system. Many working in food were already among the lowest paid workers in the UK: most workers in hospitality and food service have been furloughed, and their sector faces an uncertain future; supermarket workers have been on the frontline of the pandemic. Meanwhile, corporate retailers, the reigning superpowers in our food system, have further increased their already formidable market share. To a large extent this power imbalance is the result of policy decisions, both historic and recent. The government mustn’t fail to take advantage of an opportunity to help the UK strengthen more diverse and resilient supply chains, rather than continue to reinforce existing market power imbalances. Similarly, the Strategy appears to miss an opportunity to tie its recommendations to protect the most vulnerable together with its findings on the impact of the pandemic on power in the supply chain. For example, who supplies new holiday food schemes, and where can Free School Meal vouchers and healthy start vouchers be spent? Restricting the spending of this public money to big retailers, rather than including markets and smaller shops, is a missed opportunity to support and enhance regional supply chains, and the jobs to go with them.

Regarding Brexit and our future trading relationships, despite the positive noises on the negative impacts of unfettered agricultural trade deals, the strategy falls short on trade recommendations. The proposed ‘dual tariff’ scheme will allow meat and other products currently banned here, to be sold in UK stores and the backing of the UK’s newly formed Trade and Agriculture Commission to define and uphold UK ‘core food standards’ is a completely inadequate substitute for upholding them in legislation – in particular given the commission’s exclusion of environmental groups. More will be needed to protect standards and to drive them further towards regenerative and health-led approach to agriculture which prioritises the highest nutritional output for the least environmental impact. 

All eyes now turn to the next – and fuller – strategy, due in early 2021. While the tight focus on pragmatic recommendations to mitigate some of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit is understandable, it feels that Dimbleby has pulled his punches on the environmental costs – and opportunities – offered by the present moment. As newspapers report the UK falling behind our European neighbours on funding a green recovery, it is a missed opportunity to fail to make concrete recommendations targeting the environmental co-benefits of building a better food system. This strategy, against the backdrop of our urgent climate and biodiversity crisis driven to a great extent by the food system, will need to articulate a radical vision for change. Part 1 feels like a tentative step forward. Part 2 needs to be a leap.

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28th Jul 20 by Megan Romania

Not a moment to waste on food waste action.

Nearly 11 years ago, Feedback was founded by Tristram Stuart and Niki Charalampopoulou to challenge the scandal of global food waste and to catalyse action on the massive climate mitigation potential of meeting SDG 12.3 to halve food waste by 2030. After working on this issue for over a decade, we could not be prouder to announce that we are 2020 Laureates of the prestigious Keeling Curve Prize for our seminal work. We’re very humbled and grateful to be recognised in this way.

Our work on food waste remains as critical now as it was a decade ago.

Food waste represents an ecological catastrophe of staggering proportions: The UN estimates that 1/3 of all food produced goes to waste, generating 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases per year. Growing this wasted food gobbles up 1.4 billion hectares of land, equivalent to 28% of the world’s agricultural area.

It’s clear that reducing waste is a significant opportunity to mitigate climate change. Indeed, Project Drawdown ranks reducing food waste by 50% by 2030 as the most effective way to tackle climate change.

Business action has bloomed over the past ten years, often focused on redistributing ‘surplus’ food that arises under their current business model. However, the most effective way to mitigate the environmental and climate impacts of food waste is to prevent this waste from occurring in the first place. For example, biodiversity loss is primarily driven by the expansion of the agricultural frontier; reducing food waste could liberate significant land to reverse biodiversity loss and restore ecosystems and/or increase afforestation to sequester significant volumes of carbon.

While the UK has made progress over the past decade, this progress has not been sufficient to meet the scale of the challenge. Over the past few years, business-level food waste has reduced by a mere 1% a year. Voluntary industry agreements on tackling food waste have resulted in inadequate results, including low rates of business participation, a lack of transparent food waste reporting, unambitious targets to reduce food waste by only 21% between 2015 and 2030, and the total exclusion of primary production food waste from national targets.

Unless we take serious, immediate measures to reduce our food waste, we risk not meeting our SDG 12.3 target and further exacerbating climate change, as well as hamstringing the UK’s ability to reach net zero.

We have been campaigning for demand-side food system policy since COP24. Now, COP26 is one of our most critical, not-so-distant next-steps to ensure the UK commits to binding food waste targets as part of the national strategy to reach net zero and to ensure the Nationally Determined Contributions include bold, ambitious and binding statutory targets and regulatory action to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030 across the whole supply chain, from farm to fork.

Will you join us, by calling for the UK government to make it the law for all large food business to be transparent about how much food they waste?

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The Brazilian butcher, the big banks and the deforestation

27th Jul 20 by Daniel Jones

New evidence exposes links between Brazilian meat company JBS and ongoing deforestation in the Amazon.

In response to Feedback’s recent report, Brazilian butcher JBS said “it takes a zero-tolerance approach to deforestation in its supply chain”. But a new investigation by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Reporter Do Brasil provides compelling new evidence that it does not.

Photos from a JBS employee, show a JBS truck being used to move cattle between a farm fined for deforestation of rainforest and still under official embargo, to a “clean” farm, that sells cattle onto JBS. The Brazilian beef giant has long claimed that they cannot monitor indirect supplies and disputes the allegations.

Investors have argued that to improve practices (like illegal deforestation linked to cattle ranching) it is better to engage with companies, than to cut them adrift. Yet despite years of engagement with JBS around deforestation, corporate governance, and human rights issues – little has changed.

Engagement is failing. JBS is the canary in the coalmine. Industrial meat and dairy corporations are incapable of changing and are incompatible with deforestation, climate and food system goals.

This investigation is also compelling evidence that major financial providers will be in direct violation of their own deforestation policies if they continue their financial relationship with JBS. Feedback’s research suggests that investors and banks who are potentially in violation of their own policies include HSBC, Credit Suisse, Santander, BNP Paribas, Rabobank, UBS, Northern Trust, Banco Do Brazil, Janus Henderson. Find the top ten creditors and investors in JBS below – Feedback will this week be sharing a full list of investors as part of our trailblazing commitment to open data campaigning.

HSBC, for example, “will not knowingly provide financial services to customers involved directly in or sourcing from suppliers involved in[…] deforestation”. In response to our recent report, Butchering the Planet, a HSBC spokesperson told the Guardian that “the bank took its “agricultural commodities policy very seriously” and regularly assessed clients “for commitment to sustainable business practices”. The UK’s largest investor in JBS, Prudential, claimed last month it was actively engaging with Amazon fire and deforestation issues and provided The Guardian with a document explaining specific strategies with Marfrig and Minerva Foods – failing to mention JBS.

Today the focus is on JBS, tomorrow there will be new horrors in the supply chains of these corporations that pay little regard for people or planet. Investors are becoming more vocal, but it is time for the positive words to lead to decisive action. It is time to divest and defund industrial meat and dairy.

Parent Investor Parent Country Loans Underwriting Grand Total
Barclays United Kingdom 2,786 920 3,706
Royal Bank of Canada Canada 1,711 495 2,205
Rabobank Netherlands 1,065 186 1,251
BMO Financial Group Canada 729 495 1,224
Truist Financial United States 591 186 777
JPMorgan Chase United States 751 751
US Bancorp United States 491 186 678
Santander Spain 60 607 667
Banco do Brasil Brazil 507 507
BTG Pactual Brazil 457 457



Sum of Per Investor Value (in mln US$)   Type of financing    
Investor Parent Investor Parent Country Bondholding Shareholding Grand Total
BNDES Brazil 3,734 3,734
Fidelity Investments United States 443 144 587
BlackRock United States 256 237 493
Grupo J&F Brazil 222 222
Waddell & Reed Financial United States 159 159
JPMorgan Chase United States 152 3 155
Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance United States 146 146
Itaú Unibanco Brazil 143 143
Vanguard United States 1 141 142
APG Group Netherlands 135 135

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Less is better – responding to ‘Meat in a Net Zero World’

23rd Jul 20 by Jessica Sinclair Taylor

There's a meaty omission from an industry commitment to reduce meat waste.

At the end of June, WRAP – the UK’s waste and resources charity which coordinates industry commitments and action to reduce waste across different sectors – published a new vision from some of the biggest players in the UK meat industry. ‘Meat in a Net Zero World’ sets out a plan to make the UK meat industry a “world-leading example of efficient and sustainable meat production and supply” and focuses on four areas: meat waste in households, business-level meat waste in processing, retailer and hospitality, livestock feed, and productivity improvements in the supply chain.

The signatories, including major players like the big retailers, producers and processors such as Two Sisters, Moy Park and Avara Foods, and a smaller number of hospitality and foodservice businesses, commit to sustainably producing food, acknowledging the time is critical to face global heating and profligate resource use.

So far, so good. We can all agree that if we produce food, and especially meat products which are much more land, water and greenhouse gas intensive to produce than plant-based foods, we should then waste as little of them as possible. Wasting 380k tonnes of meat a year is no one’s idea of a good plan.

And yet, there’s something rather meaty missing from this document – something which, until acknowledged, will continue to scupper any industry efforts to become compatible with decarbonisation and protecting our planet. That something is a word you don’t often hear in corporate documents – less.

We need less meat. We need to waste less, of course, but we also need less overall – less meat production, less served in hospitality and foodservice, less meat on the shelves in supermarkets. And less in our fridges and on our plates at home. A good deal less, in fact – the Eating Better alliance has adopted a target of 50% meat reduction by 2030. Even as a body focused on resource use and waste, WRAP and the wider industry must acknowledge this central brick in the road forwards.

Reducing meat production and consumption are particularly urgent for the same reasons that making sure we waste less of the stuff is urgent – meat is a very resource-intensive way to produce food. It’s also inherently wasteful: we use land and resources like labour, capital and the capacity of ecosystems to absorb pollution, to produce feed to raise intensively farmed animals. It would be a better use of resources, in many cases, to produce food that can be eaten directly by people. Currently 36% of the world’s crops are used to feed livestock, and animal-based foods only deliver 12% of the world’s calories.

Growth-oriented businesses, unsurprisingly, have blinkers on when it comes to ‘less’, and it would surely be convenient if we could chart a path out of our current catastrophic climate trajectory purely through ‘efficiency savings’. But there’s no evidence to show this will be possible – a rather more radical response will be needed if the industry wants to meet its self-avowed goal to become ‘sustainable’.

Here are some other pieces of the agreement that worried us:

  1. The myth of sustainable soya

A big slice of the ‘sustainable meat’ debate comes down to what the animals are fed – but industrial livestock farming (as opposed to say, animal farming as part of small, mixed farming) is generally highly reliant on imported feeds such as wheat and soya – in the case of soya, often grown on land that should have been left as highly diverse, carbon-sucking rainforest or Cerrado (not to mention, land which belongs to indigenous peoples, not corporate land-grabbers). Industry likes to promote a view that it’s possible to grow soya sustainably, but there’s not much evidence that is the case – it’s a complicated tale, but see here for why. Short version: committing to only source soya that doesn’t add to deforestation may not be as meaningful as it sounds. A more real climate commitment would be to no soya-fed meat, full stop.

  1. Profligate consumers

As often when it comes to the corporate take on food waste, we have a vision here in which benevolent food businesses need to help profligate citizens to waste less of the meat they buy – primarily through techno-fixes like extensions to ‘use by’ date labels, or better packaging. Those things are important (indeed, we’ve argued that many date labels serve no purpose other than encouraging us to buy more than we need). But there’s another uncomfortable truth here that is being ignored: when people waste meat regularly it is because we are buying more than we need. About half of food waste in the home is reported as being due to not using food in time. The reason we buy too much? It could be to do with the very effective marketing and pricing model developed by retailers and corporate meat producers which frames meat, particularly chicken (the most wasted meat in households) as a cheap staple rather than a highly valuable resource. There are questions here about food prices (see, for example, the Sustainable Food Trust’s True Cost of Food research), but also about the way food is marketed to us.

  1. Efficient = better?

Efficiency sounds like a good thing, especially in the context of growing demand for food (a bigger and in some cases richer global population) and finite planetary boundaries. But as Tara Garnett, Elin Roos and Dave Little point out, efficiency is all relative – a highly efficient system may still be a very damaging one if production grows faster than efficiency improves, so an absolute limit needs to specified when we’re talking of keeping within finite natural boundaries (i.e. we only have so much land, or so much Greenhouse Gas emissions budget before we head towards dangerous warming). And the industrial livestock complex is predicted to eat up to 80% of the global emissions budget by 2050 if it continues along business as usual lines – efficiency gains will only do a small amount to mitigate what is ultimately a highly damaging and extractive industry. There’s a famous paradox to efficiency – the more efficiently you produce something, the more demand for that something increases. Garnett et al. give the example of chicken production in Sweden – emissions per kg of chicken fell by 22% between 1990 and 2005. But demand rose by 180% – so emissions still increased, by a whopping 150%. Read our report Big Livestock Versus the Planet for more on this.

  1. Voluntary inaction?

Feedback has always been dubious about the capacity of voluntary industry initiatives to get to where they’re going quickly enough. Even if we agree about the direction of travel (halving food waste by 2030), how fast we get there matters a lot – reducing emissions from the food industry is crucial to create space and time for other sectors to decarbonise. A highly comprehensive study of over 150 voluntary business environmental schemes found that the “majority of schemes set unambitious targets”, many missed these targets and many “were undermined by low rates of private sector participation”. They found no evidence that voluntary approaches can be an effective alternative to regulation. What voluntary agreements can do, however, is give governments some reassurance that where industry goes, they can follow. We’ve seen this with food waste and the UK government’s shift towards regulating for all large food businesses to report on how much they waste publicly. Even the now ex-CEO of Tesco, Dave Lewis, no doubt exasperated after years of Tesco leading the way on food waste transparency, last year called for regulation to bring their recalcitrant competitors into line.

None of this denigrates the overall goal to reduce meat waste – this is vital – nor WRAP’s sterling work bringing together companies from across the supply chain (albeit lacking a strong showing from the food service sector). But we must acknowledge the bigger picture on runaway climate change and the role the meat industry is playing in fuelling this fire. What we’d like to see instead? Cross-industry commitments to halving meat and dairy production and consumption by 2030, on a path to a decarbonised food sector which relies on reductions in absolute emissions rather than dubious off-setting and carbon capture schemes. For more on how retailers can lead the way on reducing meat consumption, see our Meat Us Halfway supermarket scorecard.

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The meat industry makes a lot of money for financiers – never mind that it’s killing us and the planet

10th Jul 20 by Jessica Sinclair Taylor

We’re reaching Peak Livestock just as we are Peak Oil – a reality that will cost investors dear if they prove slow to act.

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Banks and pension funds among investors bankrolling meat and dairy

10th Jul 20 by Jessica Sinclair Taylor

£380bn in backing comes despite calls by scientists for large reductions in meat consumption to help avoid climate crisis.

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Butchering the planet

8th Jul 20 by Big Livestock team

Meat and dairy are a climate issue. But from the scale of investments and lending to Big Livestock, you wouldn't know it.

Read our report: Butchering the Planet: The big-name financiers bankrolling livestock corporations and climate change.

Do the names ‘Tyson’, ‘Smithfield’, or ‘Cargill’ ring a bell? You might have seen these names in the news over the past weeks – recently their meatpacking plants have emerged as some of the world’s largest COVID-19 hotspots, along with prisons. But unless you work for these corporations, live near their industrial farms, or the polluted lagoons they leave behind you’ve likely never heard of them. But despite their relative anonymity, the five largest livestock industry players – JBS, Tyson, Cargill, Dairy Farmers of America, and Fonterra – together emit more greenhouse gases than ExxonMobil. What’s more, industrial meat and dairy corporations, or ‘Big Livestock’, receive billions in backing every year from financiers all over the world. Big Livestock is Big Money, and we’ve got the data to prove it.

Today, Feedback exposes the world’s investors funding total climate breakdown through industrial meat and dairy corporations.

Between 2015 and 2020, global meat and dairy companies received over $478 billion in backing by over 2,500 investment firms, banks, and pension funds headquartered around the globe. High street banks such as Barclays and HSBC provide billions in loans to the firms behind US chlorinated chicken. Prestigious universities which have banned beef on campus continue to fund controversial Brazilian butchers through their endowments. And pensions, savings, and investment companies such as Prudential, Standard Life Aberdeen and Legal & General invest in companies such as JBS and Marfrig, who have been linked again and again to deforestation.

Financing Big Livestock is no small deal. Livestock production is already a leading cause of climate breakdown, and business-as-usual growth scenarios for this industry project that, within ten years, the livestock sector will account for almost half (49%) of the world’s emissions budget to keep global temperatures at 1.5°C by 2030. Big Livestock is carbon-intense and extractive at its core; much of the land cleared for growing feed and cattle ranching occurs in the global South, as illustrated by  rising deforestation rates in Amazon and other vital ecosystems. This, in turn, is exacerbating existing inequalities as Indigenous peoples and local communities face displacement, criminalization and violence.

Banks and investors that wear with pride their commitments to end deforestation and combat climate change are deeply implicated in the financial support offered to this ecologically destructive and socially toxic industry.

Barclays boast of backing UK farming, yet invest billions in destructive US agribusinesses. HSBC appear to be funding Brazilian beef linked to deforestation and forest fires, despite their own ethical investment policies forbidding them to do so. The investor Marshall Wace, which features their support during COVID-19 for local communities on the front page of their website, continues to invest in Tyson Foods, in whose factories 8500 workers have tested positive for COVID-19 (more than double any other meatpacker) and tragically, over 25 employees have died.

Feedback’s investigation exposes the sheer scale of the global financial fodder behind meat and dairy corporations and reveals how high street banks, global investors and pension funds are bankrolling destructive livestock corporations. Our argument is simple: engagement is failing. Damage is already being done to local communities, workers, the planet and investors’ money. Banks and investors need to defund, and to divest from, Big Livestock.

Big Livestock = Big Trouble.

The Big Livestock industry is causing global heating and destruction of biodiversity. This needs to stop. Will you help us by making a donation to support our independent campaigning?

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