Sunday, December 3, 2023

NZ retailers heed consumers’ greener expectations

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The country’s largest primary processors are also ramping up their carbon focus, partly in response to overseas supplier demands and to NZ consumer expectations.
Like their overseas counterparts, NZ supermarket chains are seeking to get a read on emissions from their supply chain, and this includes primary producers.
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As pressure mounts in overseas markets for carbon footprints and supply chain transparency, New Zealand supermarkets are also moving to meet consumers’ carbon expectations.

Late last year Tesco UK sustainability manager Alice Ritchie signalled that the giant food chain would prefer an overarching policy on NZ’s farm emissions to a scattering of separate certification schemes. She said a single uniform approach held greater appeal.

NZ supplies 40% of Tesco’s lamb, and Tesco is already signalling to its UK farmers and processors to lower carbon emissions as it works to become net carbon zero by 2035.

In NZ, the owner of Countdown supermarkets, Progressive, is working to reduce its Scope 3 emissions by 19% by 2030. 

Scope 3 includes emissions from company suppliers, including farmers at the source of food production and within the farm gate. 

Scope 1 includes emissions generated directly by the particular company through fuel combustion in boilers, furnaces, and transport, and Scope 2 includes emissions associated with electricity generation, heating, and cooling.

So far Countdown has achieved a 46% reduction in its Scope 1 and 2 emissions against its 2015 baseline. 

A Countdown spokesperson said in terms of company business, Scope 1 and 2 comprise only 2% of its 3.142 million tonnes of total carbon emissions a year. 

“Our approach to Scope 3 emissions is a collaborative one. Our commitment is to reduce Scope 3 emissions by 19% by 2030 and we want to do this by helping suppliers make positive changes, which we know many of them are already talking steps towards,” the spokesperson said.

Countdown launched a pilot Scope 3 programme late last year to engage with suppliers to measure and reduce their emissions. It supplies a sustainability self-disclosure tool to identify impacts and achievements of suppliers in reducing carbon.

In the company’s 2022 sustainability report it says that, in the initial stages of this pilot, it is focused on 18 major suppliers across a range of categories including long-life, meat and dairy, where the emissions impacts are the greatest.

Competitor Foodstuffs is about to appoint a carbon manager to oversee its efforts to reduce emissions. 

Sandy Botterill, head of Foodstuffs environmental social and governance, said as member of the Climate Leaders Coalition comprising 100 NZ organisations, the company is committed to taking collective, transparent and meaningful action to reduce its emissions profile.

The country’s largest primary processors are also ramping up their carbon focus, partly in response to overseas supplier demands and to NZ consumer expectations.

John Skurr, GM for NZ sales at Alliance, said his company has been completing regular environmental assessment reports for customers across the globe, including NZ’s grocery sector, for some time.

He said the company regularly hosts customers from key markets on suppliers’ farms.

“They’re always impressed by the lengths our farmers go to improve their environmental footprints.”

Guy Blaikie, director of Fonterra Brands NZ, said NZ customers are interested to know the carbon footprint of the products they purchase from Fonterra.

“We work with customers to provide the information they need, whether that’s through statements or completing customers’ emissions templates,” he said.

Fonterra is aiming at a 50% reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030 from a 2018 baseline, upping its earlier target of 30% reduction. 

These are being achieved in part with a $90 million government contribution to help decarbonise processing.

But Fonterra’s Scope 3 targets are still under wraps, with the co-operative expected to announce its farmgate targets for suppliers later this year.

Silver Fern Farms (SFF) chief sustainability officer Kate Beddoe said a focus on carbon reduction was anticipated from its customers across all markets for some time.

“To this end we have launched Net Carbon Zero beef which incentivises our farmers for sequestration within their farming systems. We were also one of the early advocates and initial partners in AgriZero which is investing in methane reduction technology on farm.”

She said SFF has adopted science aligned targets for Scope 1 and 2 emissions, and will be adopting Scope 3 on-farm emissions targets by year’s end.

“Furthermore our industry assurance scheme NZFAP+ requires participating suppliers to have an emissions reductions plan, and to know their number.” 

Efforts to tie down NZ’s carbon emissions at the farm gate appear to have stalled.

Parliament shuts down on August 31 prior to the election and major issues remain outstanding on He Waka Eke Noa. 

These include determining the vegetation that can be attributed to farm sequestration, and price setting.

It was originally a bipartisan policy, but the National Party has declared it dead and hinted at dropping statutory timelines for emissions reductions.

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