Retail Giants & Decarbonisation: Farmers Call for Inclusion in Strategy

The way we produce, process and package food makes up a third of GHGs that are linked to human activity.  

This means that large food production and retail companies are first in line to feel pressure from investors, politicians and environmental groups to make changes – quickly.  

Decarbonising supply chains is critical for net zero targets, but it’s also proven to be strategically beneficial, with consumers also now making purchasing decisions based on this.  

Leading food chains have recognised this and are adapting, McDonalds for example has recently announced a plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2040.  

Sounds great? 

This is fantastic, but for a fair and productive transition, farmers are calling for all levels of operation to be considered in the strategy.  

Barclays produced research concluding that in 2021, UK retailers cancelled £7 billion worth of contracts with suppliers as a result of failure to meet sustainability standards. 

The rush to decarbonise is being felt harshly at the start of the supply chain by farmers.  

These supply chains are largely controlled by a small group of leading companies.  

In the UK for example, Tesco has 27% of the UK’s food and retail sector.  

Similarly, in the US, Walmart holds a quarter of the grocery market share.  

This level of influence means that the decarbonising process is led by large companies, with their own priorities and objectives at the top of the agenda.  

This creates a significant problem because the fast rollout of new measures are often not practical for smaller farmers.  

Because of this pressure, farmers are reportedly having to let go of practices that reduce emissions that compromise efficiency.  

For example, the selective breeding of cattle for greater feed efficiency, which according to a UK government report, has the potential to reduce beef-related industry greenhouse gas emissions by 27% over a 20-year period. 

Way forward 

Farmers are calling to be included in the process of creating net zero and decarbonisation strategy.  

The capacity for farmers to measure and report accurately on their emissions must be supported by education and training. 

They are arguing that their expertise in land and animal management means they can help set targets that are practical, realistic and achievable – in line with the companies’ objectives when all levels of the supply chain are considered.  

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