Co-op Group commits to a sustainable future of food

'The world is changing in ways that are having a real impact on our food system'

The Co-op Group is introducing fully compostable tea bags before Christmas, and is extending its commitment to 100% British fresh meat to frozen meat, according to its new Future of Food report.

Announced during 2018 British Food Fortnight (22 September to 7 October), the Future of Food details a series of further recycling and sustainability commitments, including:

  • removing all single-use plastics in Co-op branded packaging by 2023
  • eliminating all black and dark Co-op branded packaging by 2020
  • halving food waste
  • reaffirming its promise to cruelty-free own-brand household and toiletry products
  • growing its commitments on responsible sourcing
  • continuing to take a responsible approach to reducing the amount of salt, sugar and saturated fat in products and increasing the amount of fruit and veg on offer
  • Educating the next generation on healthy, sustainable lifestyles.

The report follows the Group’s announcement that it was removing single-use plastic carrier bags from 1,000 stores and replacing them with the UK’s first compostable carrier bag, which could then be used in kitchen food caddies.

“The world is changing in ways that are having a real impact on our food system,” said Jo Whitfield, retail chief executive at the Group, introducing the report. “We know we need to be agile and adapt to ensure a sustainable food future for people and the planet.”

Cathryn Higgs, head of food policy at the Co-op Group, echoed this in a blog: “In the developing world, farmers, growers and producers face an uncertain future. By doing business fairly and treating these people fairly, we hope to make a difference,” she wrote.

“As a co-operative, people are naturally at the heart of everything we do. Our leadership in Fairtrade, robust Ethical Trade programme, campaign against modern slavery and fight for clean water are just a few proof points of how committed we are.”

Ms Higgs highlighted how for every litre of Co-op branded water sold, 3p is donated to the One Foundation to tackle water poverty in sub-saharan Africa, while for every litre of branded water sold, 1p is donated to Water Unite, a global fund aiming to eradicate water poverty by 2030.

She added that the Group was ensuring it was treating people in its supply chain fairly by, continuing to champion Fairtrade, working closely with suppliers and publishing independent human rights impact assessments on some of the high risk areas of its supply chain.

Ms Higgs also called for members to take part in the organisation’s Join In Live events (between 7 September and 7 November 2018, “as we can’t drive sustainable change on our own”.

“Co-op is co-owned by millions of members. Everyone with a blue Co-op Membership card makes our Co-op. It’s what makes us different,” she wrote.

“What our members and customers do at home and on the go has just as much impact on the future of food as our supply chain. That’s why we’re prioritising learning about and celebrating the true value of food.”

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