The Co-op has unveiled plans to sell fully carbon-neutral own-brand food and drink by 2025.
The move, which it described as a world first by a major supermarket, is part of a ten-point climate plan to achieve net zero carbon emission by 2040, ten years ahead of the government’s ambition.
The plan covers everything from food products and packaging to power and pension fund investments, and details how the Co-op will reduce the direct and indirect impacts of all the food and drink it sells and its wider operations. The retailer also reported that it has achieved carbon neutral status across its Food, Funeralcare, Insurance and Power businesses, including its 2,600 food stores and 800 funeral homes.
A major part of the initiative sees Co-op price match its plant-based GRO range against equivalent meat products. It will also make its entire 200-strong home delivery fleet electric, end the use of fossil fuel heating, lower farm agricultural emissions, cut packaging and reduce impacts from soy in animal feed.
Co-op Power, which is the biggest energy buying co-operative in the UK, will help Co-op suppliers to save money and source low-cost energy in an ethical, sustainable way.
The plan sets out targets, endorsed by the science-based Targets Initiative, to cap global temperature increases and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Co-op Food chief executive Jo Whitfield, whose pay is linked to the retailer's new targets, said: “We are facing a monumental climate change crisis entirely of our own making. We must recognise that we are in part responsible and that we have to do more and quicker. Today, we are sharing the action we are taking, unveiling a comprehensive plan rooted in science. Emissions from our operations and our own-brand products are where we have the greatest responsibility and can make the biggest difference.
“Now when our members buy Co-op branded products and services we give local causes a helping hand and we’ll be addressing the urgent need to tackle the climate crisis. Funding schemes worldwide to tackle carbon emissions and supporting reforestation in the UK.”
The Co-op will report back each year on its progress and has called on the government to 'be bold in demonstrating world-class leadership to tackle the climate crisis, and to give credibility for a bold level of ambition for the targets they seek to set at COP-26.'
The Co-op’s Ten-Point Climate Plan includes:
- Making long-term changes to how it does business. It will be a net-zero business by 2040, for both its operations and products.
- Set clear short-term milestones. It will reduce the impact of its operations by 50 per cent and its products by 11 per cent, both by 2025, in line with climate science.
- Rapidly reduce carbon from its operations and products. It said it will take 'clear, practical steps to reduce carbon from running our business and the products we sell, reporting progress publicly.'
- Compensate for its climate impact. 'We will take responsibility for our ongoing emissions - our operations will be carbon neutral from 2021 and our own-brand products by 2025,' it said.
- Make lower carbon choices easier for customers. It willl support customers and members to move to lower-carbon lifestyles, starting by price matching between Co-op own-brand plant-based and meat or dairy-based equivalents.
- Direct finance towards reducing carbon. It will align its finance, including carbon offsets and pension funds, to support lower-carbon investments.
- Help suppliers on the climate change front line. It said it will support farmers, producers and communities to transition fairly to a low-carbon future.
- Campaign for climate action. It will be advocating with government to press for the necessary systemic change, including a call for greater climate impact disclosure and support for the most vulnerable.
- Co-operate for change at scale. 'We will actively work together across our sectors, sharing our plans and solutions, seeking to align rather than compete,' it added.
- Make its climate plan a priority. Underpinning these goals, it is linking the pay of its Food CEO to achieving its carbon-reduction targets.