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  • Writer's picturePaul Andrews

Tesco Launches Nature Programme & Support For Water Commitment

Tesco has stepped up its support for a key commitment on tackling water pollution and risk in the food industry, as it announced plans to roll out a programme of work to aid the shift to a nature positive food system.

Tesco’s Nature Programme will focus its efforts on five key areas of action: protecting nature in key sourcing landscapes, both in the UK and abroad; scaling industry leading innovations to support biodiversity; implementing a nature plan across its own estate and operations; continuing to lead the industry on research into key challenges facing nature and the food system; and playing a leading role in cross sector engagement.

The Programme will build on the ground-breaking work of the Tesco WWF Partnership, which came to a formal end earlier this month. The retailer will continue to work alongside WWF and other retailers as part of WWF’s Retailers’ Commitment for Nature Group, as well as developing its own initiatives with its suppliers and farmers.

Tesco will continue to support vital water stewardship work in key UK and international sourcing areas alongside local partners such as the Norfolk Rivers Trust and the Wye and Usk Foundation. Tesco has committed to providing significant multi-year support to help achieve WRAP’s Courtauld 2030 Water Roadmap, which aims to ensure 50% of the UK’s fresh food and drink is sourced from areas with sustainable water management by 2030. The increased support will help fund a network of critical on-the-ground collective action projects under WRAP’s Water Roadmap, helping to address water risk in catchments identified as being most affected by UK food & drink production.

In a further move, Tesco has urged key suppliers in the River Wye catchment, an important region for food production which is struggling with the impact of water pollution, to match its ambition on achieving the Courtauld 2030 Water Roadmap, and sign up to third party environmental certification schemes as soon as possible. Tesco will also be encouraging suppliers to sign up to WRAP’s Water Roadmap and the Wye & Usk Collective Action Project.

The Nature Programme will continue to drive Tesco’s efforts to scale up cutting-edge innovations in its supply chains to help reduce emissions and protect nature, including promoting biodiversity monitoring technologies, as well as supporting the use of low carbon fertilisers by its farmers and growers.

Tesco completed the roll-out of LEAF Marque certification across its UK fruit and veg supply chains earlier this year. Through the programme, Tesco will aim to increase habitats for biodiversity in its supply chains through nature corridors, riverbank planting and hedgerows, building on the work of its LEAF Marque certified produce growers.

Speaking about the launch of the Programme, Tesco’s Chief Commercial Officer, Ashwin Prasad said:

“The UK continues to be impacted by significant nature and biodiversity decline. We know the UK food system has a significant role to play, so its clear transformational change is needed to how we grow, produce and consume our food."

“As the UK agriculture’s leading customer, we work with thousands of knowledgeable and committed suppliers, growers and producers who are passionate about protecting nature on their farms. We want to harness that passion to create a food system that will protect biodiversity and secure our own supply of affordable, healthy, and sustainable food. Our Nature Programme will provide our supply base with innovative and practical ways to protect and restore nature, including stepping up our support for vital on-the-ground action in water catchments across the UK.”

Tesco has been working to comprehensively map out the metrics needed to understand nature-related impacts and pressures in its supply chains and has recently created a framework for nature monitoring at a supply chain level in partnership with Natcap. This framework will help inform the work it carries out as part of the programme, and will support the implementation of the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) reporting framework.

As well as encouraging the protection of biodiversity in its supply chains, Tesco has also committed to embedding a strategy for protecting nature across its own estate, including its stores and distribution centres. The retailer will provide further detail of this work in the new year.

The work of the Programme will help Tesco achieve its stretching net zero targets. Tesco recently became one of the first companies globally to have its targets validated by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) including emissions relating to forests, land and agriculture (FLAG).

WRAP welcomed Tesco’s commitment on supporting vital collective action projects on water stewardship across the UK and abroad.

Catherine David, Director of Behaviour Change and Business Programmes at WRAP, said: “Awareness of water risk in the food and drink supply chain continues to rise, and there has been some good progress under the Courtauld Water Roadmap since it launched two years ago. But there’s an urgent need to scale up efforts to address the negative impacts of producing food in areas that are already suffering water stress. Tesco’s continued support and leadership is extremely welcome, and its move to motivate other businesses in its supply chain is a crucial step. Only through collaboration can we successfully tackle the complex risks posed to our rivers. We urgently need more businesses to sign up to the Water Roadmap, understand their exposure to water risk, and take action together to protect our precious water resources and the communities and ecosystems they support.”

Bridie Whittle, Catchment Adviser for the Wye and Usk Foundation said: “We are pleased to see TESCO scaling up their ambition for protecting our rivers and we are very grateful for their support for the Courtauld 2030 Collective Action Project in the Wye and Usk catchment.  Working with TESCO and other partners throughout the agri-food supply chain enables us to amplify the impact of our work from the ground up, supporting farmers and working to ensure best practice is embedded and supported throughout the supply chain.  TESCO’s support and leadership has been key in engaging other businesses and delivering positive change on the ground and we look forward to continuing to work with them.”

Ed Bramham-Jones, CEO of Norfolk Rivers Trust, said: “We’re delighted to continue our work with Tesco to reduce the impact of food production on Norfolk’s water environment. Home to many of our globally rare chalk rivers, the region is also one of the most water-stressed areas of the UK. Courtauld 2030 presents a significant opportunity to create lasting change."

"We’ll continue forging strong relationships with farmers to identify opportunities to improve water management and boost the multi-benefits of sustainable food production, from conserving our topsoil to restoring habitats and enhancing biodiversity.”


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