Tesco And WWF To Map Environmental Impact Of Food

The environmental impact of some of the UK’s most popular foods will be measured and, for the first time, tracked following the launch of the Tesco and WWF Sustainable Basket Metric.

The Metric will track the environmental impact of a sample of some of the most regularly purchased foods against key sustainability criteria, including climate change, deforestation and food, and packaging waste. Tesco and WWF will run a first full assessment against the metric in early 2020 and publish the results. They will also then be able to confirm a date by which they believe the target of halving the impact of the average UK shopping basket can be reached, with 2030 a potential ambition.

The two organizations, which launched a ground-breaking partnership last year, are working together on a number of sustainability projects which will contribute to their aim, including soil health and water usage programs in UK agriculture, and working towards the production of zero-deforestation commodities such as soy in Tesco’s supply chains.

The twenty products which will include more than a dozen private brand items have been selected due to their popularity with customers and the different impacts each product has on the environment. The basket includes household staples such as bread, milk, meat, fish, and fruit and vegetables.

Tesco Group CEO, Dave Lewis

Tesco Group CEO, Dave Lewis said: “At Tesco we want to provide customers with good quality, affordable food that is produced in a sustainable way. To help us achieve this we’ve partnered with WWF with the goal of halving the environmental impact of the average UK shopping basket.

“Throughout our partnership, we’ll be carrying out industry-leading work to make food production more sustainable, including sourcing commodities like soy and palm oil from verified zero-deforestation areas, and improving soil health and water usage on farms in the UK. Working together we can help to ensure the natural environment is protected for future generations.”

WWF UK CEO, Tanya Steele said: “Food production is at the core of many of the environmental crises facing our planet – it’s the leading cause of tropical deforestation and is responsible for 24% of the world’s greenhouse gases. The launch of the Sustainable Basket Metric will enable Tesco to fully understand the end-to-end sustainability impact of some of the most popular foods, and we’re proud to have worked with them to create it. We want other retailers to take a similar approach and come together to ensure a more sustainable approach to food production.”

Tesco has committed to updating on its progress towards its aim of a 50% reduction in the environmental impact of the average UK shopping basket in its annual Little Helps Plan report.

How the basket metric works:

Each product’s impact will be tracked against a number of relevant environmental criteria. The seven criteria have been selected due to their scope and global impact; their irreversibility and urgency; and their direct impact on issues such as climate change.

While all seven criteria are critical to making the average UK shopping basket more sustainable, some have a greater environmental impact than others, so they have been weighted accordingly.

  1. Climate change (25%)
  2. Deforestation (20%)
  3. Sustainable diets (15%)
  4. Sustainable agriculture (12%)
  5. Marine sustainability (10%)
  6. Food waste (10%)
  7. Packaging waste (8%)

Each criterion will include a number of sub-metrics. For instance, Sustainable Agriculture will include the following:

  • % of farmers taking robust action to improve soil health (e.g. cover crops, low impact tillage;
  • % of farmers who are taking robust action to increase biodiversity and pollinators (e.g. wildflowers, hedgerows, Integrated Pest Management);
  • % of fresh produce from regions with sustainable water management;
  • % of key sourcing regions with clear plan to address agri-plastic pollution.

For each of the metrics, we will establish both a baseline e.g. for 2018, the year of the partnership launch, and a long-term target. In some cases, targets have already been set e.g. food waste, carbon reduction, packaging. Progress towards meeting each target will be multiplied by a percentage weighting. For example:

  • One of the basket metrics is as follows: % of South American soy from verified zero-deforestation areas.
  • The metric currently has a weighting of 12%.
  • When we achieve our target that 100% of South American soy is from deforestation-free areas, we would therefore be 12% of the way towards halving the environmental impact of the average basket.

The sum of all the metrics will indicate our overall progress towards halving the environmental impact at any given moment in time.

Tesco plans to use the Sustainable Basket Metric across more of its products, with the criteria applicable to a wide range of products not included in the basket. For example, the criteria related to lettuce, such as sustainable agriculture and food waste – and any work to tackle them, will also relate to other similar vegetables such as spinach, chard and other salad leaves.

A full list of the Sustainable Basket Metric products can be found below:

  1. Bananas
  2. Salad tomatoes
  3. Clementines, ‘Easy peeler’
  4. Maris piper potatoes
  5. Blueberries
  6. Iceberg lettuce
  7. Tesco Crisps, ready salted
  8. Microwaveable basmati rice
  9. Tesco Diet Cola
  10. Tesco Bourbon Creams Biscuits
  11. Tesco bread, soft white medium
  12. Milk, semi-skimmed
  13. Chicken, breast portions
  14. Eggs, free-range
  15. Salmon, two boneless fillets
  16. Lean beef steak mince
  17. Tesco Just Ham Sandwich
  18. Tesco Tikka Masala with rice ready meal
  19. Tesco Cream of Tomato Soup
  20. Tesco tuna chunks in Springwater


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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.