Carbon Emissions

Carbon Emissions

The term 'carbon footprint' includes all greenhouse gases from methane emitted from cattle to CFC/HCFC refrigerant gases. As carbon dioxide makes up the largest proportion of greenhouse gases, they are collectively referred to as 'carbon'.

Many scientists and policy makers are still trying to agree on the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that would avert the worst impacts of climate change on humanity. These typically range from 350 to 500 parts per million atmospheric concentration.

As of today, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is parts per million. It is increasing at   parts per million per day.



Carbon emissions are part of a cycle balancing emission sources with carbon sinks – or storage. There are three principle organic carbon sinks: oceans, soils and forests.

Data from: Lal, R. (2008). Carbon sequestration.

The food system is a central part of the climate system, both benefiting from and contributing to the carbon cycle. As a whole, the arable farming and livestock production systems we operate today contribute more to human caused carbon emissions than the transport sector.

Human sources of emissions vary by economic sector depending on what country they originate from and that country’s state of development.

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Palm and Soy

Palm and Soy

Products that are commonly traded in global markets, rather than specific supply chains from source to end user, are referred to as commodities since they are interchangeable and deemed to be the same quality. Palm and soy are two key agricultural commodities that are particularly associated with environmental issues.

Soy and palm oil are two commodities that have increased significantly in production and use in the last few decades.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). FAOSTAT Statistics Database. Website accessed on [14/12/2016].

Increased demand for these products is driving deforestation in South America (soy), Indonesia, and Malaysia (palm), which are the biggest exporters of these commodities.

The expansion of both crops has been associated with cases of poor labour practices, including forced and child labour, and with the appropriation of land traditionally used by smallholder communities and indigenous people.


Around 70% of palm oil imported into the UK is used in food, with the rest being used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and cleaning products. 75% of soy is used in animal feed.


Amount of soy needed for 100g of product:

Data from: Kross, H., Kuepper, B. 2015. Mapping the Soy Supply Chain in Europe: A Research Paper Prepared for WNF. Profundo, Netherlands WWF.

There are a growing number of standards and certification bodies that have been developed to address environmental and social concerns. The two most respected standards today are the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS).

Corporate Commitments / Memberships

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS)
 Coca Cola Europe
General Mills
 Marks & Spencer
 Mars Inc.
 Metro Group

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Nitrogen (N), phosphate (P), and potassium (K) underpinned the 'green revolution' in the 1970s that delivered greater crop yields - but not without environmental cost.

Our use of fertilisers has increased significantly over the last fifty years.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. FAOSTAT Statistics Database. Website accessed on [14/12/2016]. FAO, 2016. World fertilizer trends and outlook to 2019.

But not all countries and crops utilise fertilisers in the same way.

When more fertilisers are applied than required, the excess nutrients run off and leach into waterways making them uninhabitable for fish due to eutrophication.

Some fertilisers are finite resources on our planet. Without more efficient use of these essential elements, there is a real risk that our demand could soon exceed our natural supply.

Improving soil health through non-fertiliser approaches can help enhance our second biggest carbon sink.

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An important source of global protein - with the potential to be part of healthier sustainable diets.

The majority of the world’s wild fish stocks are now either fully exploited or depleted.

FAO. 2016. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2016. Contributing to food security and nutrition for all. Rome. 200 pp. 

Marine capture production varies depending on country and can impact on valuable marine ecosystems in surrounding waters.

The preservation of global stocks is a constantly moving challenge. Species that are protected may recover, and those that flourish can quickly be reduced as new fishing techniques and technologies expand the reach of modern fishing vessels.

Snapshot of current view of at risk species and production methods. See the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide for further list and methods.

Aquaculture may be one way to supply fish without affecting wild stock levels. Provided that the risks associated with disease and managing local ecosystem risks are adequately addressed in a production system, and that feed is sourced sustainably, it has the potential to play a crucial role in livestock production.

Issues associated with aquaculture

WRAP, 2015: Food Futures Report. Download here.

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Diets are arguably the centre of the entire food system. The choices individuals make determine which products are produced and in what quantities.

Household diets have shifted radically over the last 60 years; foods are no longer restricted to seasonal harvests, new cuisines have spread across the world, and there has been a rise in processed foods. This has impacted on our health and the health of the planet and, globally, more people are now obese than underweight.

It is now increasingly being recognised that healthy diets are almost inherently sustainable.

The area of alignment that most intersects the nexus of a healthy and sustainable diet concerns the growing consumption of red meat in our diets. And yet our consumption of red meat is forecast to grow substantially over the next thirty years.

2016 (80.5 million tonnes)
2020 (93 million tonnes)
2030 (107 million tonnes)
2040 (119 million tonnes)
2050 (130 million tonnes)

Data from: OECD (2017), Meat consumption (indicator). doi: 10.1787/fa290fd0-en (Accessed on 07 February 2017); FAO. 2011. World Livestock 2011 – Livestock in food security. Rome, FAO.

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Corporate Commitments

Corporate Commitments

A growing number of businesses are committing to actions that aim to address the systemic risks and impacts of our food system.

Responsible Business Memberships

Global Compact Consumer Goods Forum Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS)
 Coca Cola Europe
General Mills
 Marks & Spencer
 Mars Inc.
 Metro Group

Carbon Reductions

Type  Science-based Targets Set Baseline Year Own-Operations Target   Supply Chain Target
Carrefour Retailer Committed 2010 -70% by 2050 (A)
Cargill Producer No 2015 -5% by 2020 (R)
Coca Cola Europe Manufacturer Yes 2007 -50% by 2020 (A) -33% by 2020 (R)
Diageo Manufacturer Yes 2007 -50% by 2020 (A) -30% by 2020 (R)
General Mills Manufacturer Yes 2010 -28% by 2025 (A) -28% by 2025 (A)
Kellogg Manufacturer Yes 2015 -65% by 2050 (A) -20% by 2030 (A), -50% by 2050 (A)
Marks & Spencer Retail Committed TBD TBD
Mars Inc. Manufacturer Committed  2007 -100% by 2040 (A) -67% by 2050 (A)
Metro Group Retail Committed 2011 -80-95% by 2050 (A)
Morrisons Retail No 2005 30% by 2020 (R)
Nestlé Manufacturer Yes -50% by 2050 (A) -50% by 2050 (A)
PepsiCo Manufacturer Yes  2015 -20% by 2030 (A) -20% by 2030 (A)
Sainsbury's Retail No 2005 -30% by 2020 (A)
Tesco Retail Yes 2015 -60% by 2025 (A) -17% by 2030 (A)
Unilever Manufacturer Committed TBD TBD
Walmart Retail Yes 2015 -18% by 2025 (A) 1 billion tonnes avoided by 2030 (suppliers + customers)
(R) = Relative Emissions; (A) = Absolute Emissions


Deforestation Target
Carrefour By 2020
Cargill By 2030
Coca Cola Europe
General Mills
Kellogg By 2020 (high risk supply chains)
Marks & Spencer By 2020 (commodity-driven)
Mars Inc.
Metro Group
 Nestlé  By 2020
 PepsiCo By 2020
 Sainsbury's By 2020
 Tesco By 2020
 Unilever By 2020 (five commodities)
 Walmart By 2020
Zero deforestation
Zero net deforestation

Resource Use

Energy Water Food waste
 Carrefour -30% (in stores) by 2020 (2004)*   -50% by 2025 (2016)
 Cargill 5% improvement in efficiency by 2020 (2015) 5% improvement in efficiency by 2020 (2015)  
 Coca Cola Europe

40% of energy from renewable or low-carbon sources by 2020

Equal amount of water as used in finished beverages and production returned to environment by 2020  
 Diageo   50% improvement in efficiency by 2020; 100% of waste water from operations returned to environment by 2020  
 General Mills   -1%  each year in every production facility -50% by 2050
 Kellogg -15% in plants by 2020 (2015)*; 50% increase in low-carbon energy in plants by 2020 -15% in plants by 2020 (2015)* -50% by 2050
 Marks & Spencer 50% improvement in efficiency (in UK and ROI operations) by 2020*; Continue to procure 100% renewable electricity in the UK & RoI to 2020 -35% (in UK and ROI operations) by 2020 (2006/7)* -20% by 2020 (2013/14)* -50% (in operations) by 2025 (2016)
 Mars Inc. -100% fossil fuel use (in operations) by 2040    
 Metro Group      
 Morrisons   -20% (in operations) by 2020 -20% by 2025 (2015)
 Nestlé 20% increase in renewable energy use across all sites by 2020 (2006) -35% by 2020 (2010)* -50% by 2025 (2016)
 PepsiCo   25% increase in efficiency by 2025; 15% improvement in efficiency in high water risk sourcing areas by 2025 -50% by 2050
 Sainsbury's   -35% (operations only) by 2020 (2010/11) -20% by 2025
 Tesco 100% renewable electricity by 2030   Zero surplus food waste by 2017 (UK only); -20% by 2025 (2015)

100% of grid electricity from renewable sources by 2020; 100% of energy across manufacturing operations from renewable sources by 2030

Water abstraction by global factory network will be at or below 2008 levels by 2020 -50% by 2050; -20% by 2025 (2015)
 Walmart Supplied by 100% renewable energy by 2016   -50% by 2050
* = Relative Target; (2015)= Baseline Year

Sustainable Agriculture

Policy Soils Fertiliser Pesticides Water Labour
Carrefour           Link
Cargill           Link
Coca Cola Europe Link Link   Link Link Link
Diageo Link     Link Link
General Mills         Link
Kellogg Link     Link Link
Marks & Spencer     Link   Link
Mars Inc.       Link Link
Metro Group         Link
Morrisons         Link
Nestlé Link Link Link Link  Link
PepsiCo Link Link Link Link Link Link
Sainsbury's         Link
Tesco         Link
Unilever Link Link Link  Link Link Link
Walmart         Link

Raw Materials

  Palm Oil Soy Sugar Rice Corn Paper Beef Fish Feed
Carrefour Link         Link      
Cargill Link         Link      
Coca Cola Europe Link Link Link   Link Link      
Diageo           Link      
General Mills Link   Link   Link Link      
Kellogg Link   Link Link Link Link      
Marks & Spencer Link Link       Link Link Link Link
Mars Inc. Link Link   Link   Link Link Link  
Metro Group Link         Link   Link  
Morrisons Link Link       Link   Link  
Nestlé Link Link Link     Link   Link  
PepsiCo Link   Link            
Sainsbury's Link Link   Link   Link Link Link Link
Tesco Link Link       Link Link Link Link
Unilever Link Link Link     Link Link    
Walmart Link             Link  
Full commitment
Partial commitment (including zero deforestation)

Last updated February 2017.

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Food Waste

Food Waste

Almost 1/3 of all food is wasted.

The production and loss of food from the human food chain has a substantial impact on the planet.

Food can be lost or wasted at all stages of the value chain. During production, losses occur when crops do not meet their yield potential due to factors such as lack of nutrients/water, disease, and poor weather conditions, or are not harvested. Inefficiencies occur as parts of crops cannot be harvested, and in the feed-to-animal conversion. Losses also occur during transport, storage and processing. In addition household food waste can be significant, when food is not used or when it is over-consumed.


Alexander, Brown, Arneth, Finnigan, Moran, & Rounsevell (2017). Losses, inefficiencies and waste in the global food system.

The reason food is wasted before it is consumed varies by region. Household food waste is concentrated in America, industrialised Asia and Europe, whilst waste during production and handling is more significant in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Data from: WRI (2015). WRI analysis based on FAO. 2011. Global food losses and food waste—extent, causes and prevention. Rome: UN FAO.

Food loss is an inherent part of the food system, but what we do with it determines whether or not our resources have been wasted. In the Netherlands, the majority of food waste is incinerated:

Food redistribution (1%)
Animal feed (21%)
Fermentation (7%)
Composting (22%)
Incineration (46%)
Landfill (3%)

Data from: Food Waste Monitor, Mid-term report, Soethoudt and Timmermans, Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research (2013)

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The removal of trees to convert land to non-forest use, such as agriculture, grazing, and urban development.


Agriculture is the biggest driver of deforestation around the world.

Forests that provide habitat for rare and endangered species are amongst the most important to safeguard from deforestation. These include tropical forests in S E Asia, Africa and South America, forests on islands (e.g. Madagascar) and forests where only small fragments of the original remain.

Some of these forests are in regions at risk of deforestation as competition for land increases, particularly in areas that are able to produce key commodities such as soy, palm oil, and beef. Through satellites we can now use remote sensing and other forms of technology to track forest loss in close to real time.

Use the map below to see how deforestation is impacting on some of our most important forests.

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