10
min read

From Farm to Fork: Rethinking the Journey to Net Zero

In this week's episode, we bring the greatest sustainability challenges facing the food industry to the table, outlining the practical steps to overcome these.

We speak to Judith Batchelar and Stephen Mackenzie whose unrivalled experience makes them uniquely equipped to guide us through the food sector’s decarbonisation hurdles. We bring the greatest sustainability challenges facing the food industry to the table, outlining the business steps to overcome these; namely, pragmatic data consolidation, multi-stakeholder collaboration, holistic impact acknowledgement and ruthless prioritisation. Tune in to hear how your business can accelerate their path to net zero.

Book recommendations:

  • How to avoid a climate disaster, Bill Gates
  • Eating to Extinction, Dan Saladino
  • Saving Us, Katharine Hayho

Useful links:


Transcript


Jamie Dujardin:
This is Altruistic, where we speak to pioneers in the race to zero, and unpack the lessons from their experience for you, our community of impact professionals. I'm your host, Jamie Dujardin, and in today's episode, we're going to talk about decarbonising the food industry. We're joined by two experts in the food industry whose unrivalled experience makes them uniquely equipped to guide us through this sector's decarbonisation hurdles and challenges.

Jamie Dujardin:
Firstly, I'm thrilled to welcome Judith Batchelar, whose impressive career in impact is far-reaching. To name just a few of her roles, she is the deputy chair of the Environment Agency, chair of the government's Ivory Tech Council, and sits on the Food, Drink, and Natural Environment Research Council. Prior to this, Judith spent 17 years at Sainsbury's as director of Sainsbury's brand, and director of corporate responsibility, sustainability, and public first.

Jamie Dujardin:
Alongside Judith, I'm also excited to introduce Dr. Stephen Mackenzie, a senior sector specialist for modelling greenhouse gas emissions in food systems at WRAP. Stephen advises businesses in modelling their GHG emissions through working groups such as the Courtauld Commitment 2030. Prior to taking up this role at WRAP, he spent 10 years in academic research roles, with New Castle University, Trinity College Dublin, and the University of Edinburgh, working on projects to measure and reduce the environmental impact of food systems.. Judith and Stephen, welcome. Great to have you on the podcast. How are you both?

Judith Batchelar:
Great. Thank you for inviting us. Looking forward to what should be a great conversation.

Stephen Mackenzie:
Absolutely, Jamie, thank you so much.

Jamie Dujardin:
Not at all. It's honestly our pleasure at Altruistic. I'm going to jump straight into it. So over to you, Judith. It's no surprise to us at all that you were awarded an AV in 2015 for your services in to the farming and food industry, considering all the pioneering work you spearheaded in the food system. What made sustainability a business imperative to you?

Judith Batchelar:
I suppose on one level, it's common sense, isn't it? If you look after the world's resources in a way that is careful and thoughtful, then it will be sustainable. But clearly top level, that's a really interesting theory, putting that into practice is something quite different. For a very long time, a lot of those things were seen as nice to do, or the right thing to do. But they weren't seen as imperative good business practice if you wanted to deliver a sustainable, longterm business, and what I would call sustainable, longterm competitive advantage, because you want to be of a duration.

Judith Batchelar:
I had a CEO who always used to say to me, "Judith, you got to play the long game." I think that probably stuck with me. Those things have to be hardwired into business routines, rituals, reporting, ways of working. Otherwise, they just remain wishful thinking. I think it's very easy to see businesses who have hardwired those things in and those that are still thinking it's a nice thing to do. We need everyone to hard wire this into the way they do business.

Jamie Dujardin:
Businesses that look at decisions in a holistic way are thinking about this totally differently to those that see this as a cost we're going to have to endure, and meet the minimum requirements, etc. So Stephen, over to you, I guess, then, as well, WRAP's mission is to transform global food and textile systems for the good. That's something that really aligns with us at Altruistic. We primarily work with food and textile players. So I'd love to understand, in your eyes, what role do organisations like WRAP have in uniting these sectors? Also, enabling and accelerating purpose driven business decisions?

Stephen Mackenzie:
Thank you so much, Jamie. So I suppose at the very general level, an organisation like WRAP is really trying to be a trusted partner for businesses across those sectors to convene action so that they can come together, in some cases in non competitive spaces, to implement target measure acts. They need to understand what the target is that they're working towards on a specific issue, how to measure it, and what the actions they need to take to achieve the targets that they've set in the first place.

Stephen Mackenzie:
Now, in the case of greenhouse gases and scope three emissions, which is a specific example that WRAP is focusing on as a real problem area that needs resolving within the food sector, at the moment, we're in a place where we have set a target, businesses have joined the Courtauld Commitment. One of the targets that they've set is to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from UK food systems by 50% by 2030. Which is a very ambitious target.

Stephen Mackenzie:
We have just published a set of protocols and guidelines to help businesses measure the current footprint of their greenhouse gases, and to understand how they can take action to achieve their targets at the individual business level. We need to help businesses understand how they can act and implement those principles at the general level. But also to go further to work with the sector more broadly to think about the sub level actions that they can take at the sector level so that they can really achieve these ambitious targets. So that's the kind of practical example of the overall principle, and we're going to talk more about that today, really.

Jamie Dujardin:
I think it's really important that organisations like WRAP and the Science First Target Initiative forcing the ambition in targets. That's one of the elements that you lead on. Then providing the guidance and support to actually achieve those targets is a whole other piece. The number of the challenges that these businesses, let's say in the food space, for the Courtauld Commitment are facing are quite similar.

Jamie Dujardin:
But Judith, what you were saying, the way they might tackle them could lead to quite a big strategic advantage in one way or another. You can find innovative ways to tackle this transition. So it's on organisations like WRAP to help everyone understand how they could tackle them at a high level. But once they get into internal implementation, there is actually quite a big difference between different businesses and how they might tackle some of these.

Judith Batchelar:
The key is the quality of the implementation, that's why the act of the target measure act is so important, and needs to be done to a very high standard. That's why WRAP is so useful to all of us, actually, in holding us all to account. So thank you, Stephen.

Jamie Dujardin:
I would say there are so many misconceptions and lack of quality data, which is something we're obviously going to come to in this space, that lead to incorrect actions, or misunderstood actions. But actually, there is so much opportunity to act better.

Stephen Mackenzie:
That's a two way thing. So businesses can gain more knowledge in learning how to learn from others, and how to act in more concrete ways that really achieve those targets by being collaborative through the voluntary agreements. It's not a zero sum game, as such.

Jamie Dujardin:
Definitely. The amount of systems change that is required to achieve a lot of this is going to be massive. Sticking to the food space, food production from farm to fork represents 30% of total emissions within the EU, approximately. This sector obviously contributes significantly to GHGs, because it's so essential to the economy. But also that means that it is one of the key sectors that policy makers and businesses are being challenged about in terms of decarbonisation and making change. What do you think, within the UK, and if you see differences are the key emissions hot spots?

Stephen Mackenzie:
I'll start with the UK context, thanks, Jamie, because it was only last year that WRAP released an analysis on the hot spots. Effectively it showed that more than half of those emissions were coming really from the primary production of food, on farm, or language to that effect, really accounts for well over 50% of the footprint of the UK food system. Given that we're a country that imports more or less 50% of food, that broke down along those lines.

Stephen Mackenzie:
So the figures aren't exactly like that, but it's just under half of those emissions coming from imported products from overseas, and just over half from practices on farm in the UK. But that's the big hot spot that you've got to think about tackling when you're really thinking about the food system overall. Then there is a huge amount of actions going through the supply chain from that, that can make a difference. One of the big demonstrations of that naturally being WRAP and the history of WRAP as an organisation that focused on waste and food waste.

Stephen Mackenzie:
One of the key bits of that analysis was to figure out how much food waste was contributing to that footprint. Effectively, the approximate calculation that we derived from that was around about 23% of the food emissions from the UK food system were being caused by waste and loss at points through that supply chain. So you can see that there is huge actions that you can take right away through to the consumption in the home and disposal. But some of the big ticket items that we need to focus on is how food is being produced right at the start.

Judith Batchelar:
That last point, Stephen, is really important, because at the consumer end of things, there are some real misconceptions around where the hot spots are. People talk about food miles as being, if I can buy locally, then that solves all those problems. Of course, it's not as simple as that. It's much more important how your food is produced, and what was produced on that land before it became agricultural land than it is how that food got to you.

Judith Batchelar:
I think it's only 18% of total emissions come from the supply chain part of that. That is, obviously, counter intuitive to what most people think. So we've got some quite big messages to get across. But I think the work that WRAP has done is brilliant in mapping that out, and starting to create what I would call a high quality typical values for supply chains that people can rely on as a really good proxy for their own supply chains. But nothing is more important than understanding the materiality of your own value chains, and where your own hot spots are.

Judith Batchelar:
That is really important when it comes to target measure act, because you want to act on where those, I would call them priority places. But they are those important places in your supply chain, where you know that your interventions will be rewarded with some significant impacts. That means knowing your supply chains better than you probably have done historically. Where there are points of commonality, with other supply chain members, because we're all in this together, aren't we? So it is highly likely, if it's my hot spot, it's also someone else's hot spot. Therefore, the ability to collaborate and take collective action is quite important.

Jamie Dujardin:
We recently did a bit of work with a food business on the transport piece, where they wanted to understand the relative emissions between some garlic they were buying in Spain, and garlic they were buying from China. The assumption was that coming from China, the transport emissions would be much higher. But actually, when you looked into this specific supplier, it was being shipped from China, and driven from Spain. The transport emissions wasn't that different. But the garlic from China was still much, much higher in total emissions. That was being driven by the fact, on average, fertiliser use is much more abundant in China than it is in Spain.

Jamie Dujardin:
Really understanding these drivers and what is really causing emissions was going to be so important to creating change and driving action. The number of misconceptions out there right now is very hard to tackle. One of the things that struck me from the WRAP report, but also just generally in this space is that one, that there are a number of misconceptions, but also two, where these hot spots might be changing over time. We said for the UK food system, and I guess much of the US food system as well, there is a huge amount of imported food.

Jamie Dujardin:
Hot spots will come from suppliers of some of the UK's biggest food businesses or food retailers, and so on. That means that to understand both emissions, measurement of emissions and drive action, a huge amount of supplier engagement is needed. So I would love to know. Judith, just from your experience, where do you think the greatest challenges are in successful buyer engagement in the food space?

Judith Batchelar:
I suppose it builds on what we were just talking about. If you understand where your materiality is, then you can talk to your supply chain partners about where that, the mutual areas of materiality are. I would describe it as all roads lead to. But there are these really highly consolidated points in the value chain. So the global food system is both highly fragmented and highly consolidated. So highly fragmented with millions of small holder farmers producing 30% of the world's food comes from small holders, tea, coffee, sugar, bananas, rice, so on. Highly fragmented at the consumer end of things.

Judith Batchelar:
Then in the middle, you've got these really interesting points of consolidation. But in order to do that, you have to speak the same language. You have to use the same currency to measure where those points of interest are. Data is a big topic. I won't talk about that now. But unless you are talking using similar definitions, similar language, understanding that, then quite often things get genuinely lost in translation. It's important that we deal with that, because we need to create what I would describe as along the whole value chain, or even value system. Because if it was only as simple as the chain, life would be great. But it isn't. It's a value and supply system.

Judith Batchelar:
If we can create that collective understanding of where we all need to focus our efforts to intervene, and creating that connected business case, then we can deal with some of the biggest issues that we've got. Some of the biggest issues we've got are where the investment needs to take place may not be necessarily where the return on that investment is vested. That creates tension. So you will hear people talk about a fair price for farmers, or insuring that everyone shares equitably in the profit of a supply system. Absolutely understand that.

Judith Batchelar:
But underneath that, there are some real complexities as to say about where the big investments are being made, where those investments return. Importantly, particularly if you're expecting a consumer to pay for those investments, so to pay more for things that may be more sustainably sourced, you've got to be able to connect the customer with the person that's produced that food. Which is, again, digital technologies, all those things make that possible. But it's not normal. There are lots of reasons why it doesn't happen in the way that it should.

Judith Batchelar:
But that collectivity, connected business case, collective investment and return, rewarding all stakeholders to create a sustainable food system is really important. But, I always say, my scope one and two is someone else's scope three emissions, and vice versa. So if we can't all measure and focus in the same way, it's going to make life easier for all of us on everything from taking the appropriate action to reporting on this and making sure that reporting is accurate, because that's the only way we're going to get to net zero is by accurate reporting. But that's another topic.

Jamie Dujardin:
I totally agree with you that supply chain engagement, at some point, probably needs to move from engagement about measurements to engagement about acting. But we need to tackle the first box in order to successfully tackle the second one and create these collective business cases. I absolutely love that term. Stephen, over to you, from your work with WRAP, you probably hear a number of businesses that talk about some of the challenges with supply chain engagement. We'd love to hear what you think they're facing thematically as well.

Stephen Mackenzie:
Yes. Well, what they face, really touches on some of the points that Judith as has just raised. What you're looking at, really, is a perception that burden falls on producers to supply the relevant data. But do they see the benefits of that? Do they get the benefits financially from the costs involved in doing that? So that's a general perception of fairness, really, within the industry, and whether increasing this kind of ramping up these data asks is fair in that kind of really fragmented area, with lots of small producers. Then the second is faith. Faith in the data being supplied, being used in a consistent way, and being used for the benefit of the person supplying the data.

Stephen Mackenzie:
That's one of the things where inconsistency in how it's used, and inconsistency of methods really undermines efforts sometimes, because it doesn't create an impression that handing over such information, which may have been very difficult to get ahold of in the first place, is going to benefit your business, is going to actually help you. So yeah, they're the kind of barriers. Obviously at WRAP we are trying to do things like pilot specific sets of questions for certain food products that can at least start to be used in a consistent way through the sector.

Stephen Mackenzie:
The sector needs to come together, work out what it's key data asks are, and then apply those consistently so that everyone is getting a fair deal in supplying that information, and everyone is getting information consistently at the consumer end, so they're making informed choices, if they are making choices based on that information.

Jamie Dujardin:
Both of you spoke about fragmentation in the number of suppliers, and therefore just the challenge in scale of how much engagement is required. But then also this fragmentation in standards that I think exists today in the sustainability space, and data standards, data requests, etc, leads to an exponential increase in that burden. Even further to your average agribusiness might be responding to five different retailers, and five different data requirements, and five different data structures, and so on. That burden just gets larger and larger. Almost distracts us from getting to the act. But makes us have to focus too long on the measure.

Jamie Dujardin:
So can see both of those from our experience working with businesses as well. You started to mention consistency of data, Stephen. So I would love to get into this one. Research conducted by WRAP in the development of the measurement and reporting protocols found that one of the most common barriers in scope three data collection was poor data. Now what I'd love to understand is how do we start to bridge the gaps in understanding and tackle some of the inconsistencies in data so that we have a true measurement of emissions, or at least a consistent measurement of emissions that we can all work from?

Stephen Mackenzie:
There is two roots to tackling that problem. One of which is the end goal, which is quite an ambitious one. As you mentioned, we don't want to delay all the action until we get to perfect data, which is the idea that we have this joined up system which will tell you the emissions associated with a specific food product that you're buying on the shelf. That requires a large volume of information coming directly from producers all the way through the supply chain, to the point at which it's sold. But there is obviously action that can be taken in the intermediate time before then.

Stephen Mackenzie:
We set out, actually, in those scope 3 protocols a bit of a hierarchy of quality of data going into emission factors, going right down from the bottom, which is using average emission factors, and understanding the amount the companies are spending on a particular product in their supply chain. Going right the way up to effectively having primary data that tells you both the emission factor and the exact amount of that product that you have, and in between that, you can be improving on either of those two things.

Stephen Mackenzie:
So you can be getting towards better average emissions factors, which the industry can do by coming together and potentially say, at the UK level, agreeing to supply certain data into a pot that will allow it to be quite confident of what the average emission factor is. Or it can be improving the quality of the data by understanding at the very granular level where and how much particular products it's buying, and then using that information to take a slightly adapted average emission factors off the shelf to at least get towards a bespoke footprint for the kind of inventory of food products that go through supply chain and selling on.

Stephen Mackenzie:
I would say that our general feeling from what we know from talking to members of our agreements is that a lot of people are still having to operate at the lower end of that, within the sector, just for practical reasons of information available. But at least setting that out gives everyone a pathway as to how that can improve, and we only need to get as far along that pathway of improving that to take meaningful action. It doesn't have to be a perfect utopia. We just need to get far enough that we can demonstrate real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from the sector.

Jamie Dujardin:
There are two other big things that always come up to my mind in this one is the speed at which companies are having to move from not tracking this at all to reporting on it means that a number of them are going down the easier route. But we shouldn't scold them for that. It should be an incremental journey to more accuracy and more granularity. How we support companies on that is really important.

Jamie Dujardin:
The second is choosing material areas to go into more granularity. You can go into huge amounts of granularity around areas of your supply chain that make up .1% of your total emissions, your commuting data for a big food retailer, for example. Actually that, spending less time on that and more time really understanding the food your sourcing, where you're sourcing it from, and those impacts is, I think, really important as well.

Judith Batchelar:
I was going to add to that, that you touched on the exam questions, really, that we often ask ourselves, which is how good does the data need to be good enough for us to take action? How much data is enough? It's the classic 80/20 rule, isn't it? I think there is one other principle that is almost designed to reduce the burden on individuals. That's the question, really, around how you collect it and how you share it, and syndicate it. So this idea of collect it once, and multipurpose it, and serve it up many times. If you were going to take that principle, then you've got some interesting challenges around public and private data, and how public and private data is shared for government purposes for business and private purposes.

Judith Batchelar:
But we know we can do that, because we did that during the coronavirus first lockdown, when we had some really big challenges around people who are clinically vulnerable. So we know we're capable of doing that in a way that's safe for the data, and means the data can be used and combined for the common good. But that does require us changing the way we do things, not just for emergencies, but for operating with the climate and nature crisis in the background.

Judith Batchelar:
If we can find a way of doing that, and I think the government announced in the recent DEFRA White Paper on the followup to the national food strategy, the idea of the food data transparency partnership, that becomes something that could potentially be hugely powerful in answering those three questions. How much data is enough, how good is good enough? Let's collect it once, and serve it up many times.

Jamie Dujardin:
Getting to perfect data can sometimes also be seen or used as an excuse for getting on with action. What are the minimum requirements that we can feel confident in our decisions is something we're all trying to find the line on, and finding some standard around that will be hugely hugely valuable. Judith, you called it the climate and nature challenge that we're facing, or crisis we're facing. There is a lot of focus right now on emissions, and emissions data.

Jamie Dujardin:
Would love to know where you think businesses should also be focusing? As I look at the Courtauld Commitment, for example, it was things about measuring food waste in absolute number, also talking about water security. How do we broaden our data horizons beyond just emissions factors to impact understanding in a more holistic sense?

Judith Batchelar:
We definitely have to, because these things are not all mutually exclusive. They are all inexplicably linked. So whether it's nature, water, people, climate, we have to look at these things holistically. I think the way to do that is, again, through these data requests, and what a minimum dataset looks like for water. What does a dataset look like for social and economic impacts?

Judith Batchelar:
Hopefully if we get to where we need to get to with something like the food data transparency partnership, which can work across all of government, so bringing in all sorts of different datasets that mean we can learn and focus our attentions, then that will be a big step forward. However, once you've got all of that data, you've still got to prioritise. I think one of the things people talk a lot about trade offs. Trading off climate and nature, trading off water, people, economic impact.

Judith Batchelar:
I'd prefer not to think of it as trade offs, but as a really rigorous prioritisation process that says, actually, in this particular set of circumstances, these people, these supply chains, these commodities, these geographies, actually, the three most important things are water, people, and economic survival. Therefore, those are the things we're going to prioritise for this particular place in the world. But in other places, those priorities might be very different. We've got to get to the point where we've got enough data to be able to prioritise, given the holistic approach to these things, prioritise the things that matter most in those places.

Judith Batchelar:
We're not in a position to be able to do that yet. So a lot of those things really are trade offs, because we don't have the information to be able to properly prioritise. But I don't think that's far away. Then it comes back to how do you collect the data and multipurpose it so you can prioritise and do the right thing in the right place?

Jamie Dujardin:
As soon as we ever bring up beyond emissions, people go, "Oh my god, another challenge." But actually, I think a lot of the data that the businesses need to track is activity data. Then it's on organisations such as the government, such as data housing to support them in understanding what the impact of those activities is, providing a holistic view of that wellbeing, the longterm vision for many of us.

Jamie Dujardin:
Because once we solve the climate crisis, I'm sure there will be a land use crisis, or another crisis that we can take on to ... Stephen, WRAP is always thinking beyond just climate, throughout everything, from the Plastic Pact, through the Courtauld Commitment. How do you guys prioritise what comes into each of your voluntary commitments, and what data do you think is most important to track?

Stephen Mackenzie:
Well, I suppose first of all, it's about doing exactly what Judith was just talking about, but on the micro level as an organisation. What are the key issues that we're looking to help businesses resolve? The different sectors you're talking about, what are the issues that they really need to tackle to survive and be sustainable? Once you get to that point, and we've kind of boiled that down now to food waste, water stewardship, and greenhouse gases, then you're just looking at understanding, well, what is the data that you need to understand whether any progress is being made on that issue? Effectively, it's all done in consultation.

Stephen Mackenzie:
But ultimately, you're setting really ambitious targets about an issue that's in the public discourse, and really needs dealing with, and needs a trusted actor to convene people to coalesce action on it. In the cases of greenhouse gases, I suppose one of the issues that people really needed to deal with, it was consistent methods, hence why we ended up publishing those protocols, and going down that route.

Stephen Mackenzie:
In other areas, these voluntary agreements are a bit more established, being in relation to food waste, and things like that. We can get down to a much more granular level of action, and recommending actions for businesses. We will get there on the issues of water and greenhouse gases as well. We are getting there. But that kind of ability to even measure it is one of the key things that the sector as a whole needs resolving at the moment, and needs some clear direction on, so that everyone doesn't feel like they're playing an unfair game.

Jamie Dujardin:
I love that that is just the actionable, the version of what Judith is saying, which is how do we bring the right people in the room and ruthlessly prioritise together to get to the most important things we can act on right now? I think there is a lot of exciting stuff just to come in beyond emissions data space. A number of us probably know that the GHG protocol level like on land use standards, and there is more standards being developed. It's a really exciting time to measure impact in a more holistic way.

Stephen Mackenzie:
Yes. We need to be providing clear guidance on what are the steps that you take as a food business to comply with those standards, and do it in the right way? I think that's one of the big gaps that WRAP is trying to fill at the moment is really to provide that clear guidance for the food sector, when lots and lots of different documents are coming out at the same time.

Jamie Dujardin:
Documents that require quite educated individuals who have spent a lot of time thinking about these problems to understand those documents. So really translating them into business action is a very difficult task that WRAP is doing an amazing job on already. Something we haven't really touched on yet is where policy comes into all of this. We would love to understand, Judith, what do you think the importance of the public sector is in driving change? How do you start to see the public sector and private sector.

Judith Batchelar:
It's an interesting one, isn't it? Policy comes in all shapes and sizes. Of course, the key thing for policy is not the policy, but how well it's implemented, and how well it's regulated, enforced, so on and so forth. It's fundamental in this space, because we're talking about very complicated systems approaches to things. We're trying to drive systemic change. As we will all know, this fabulous multi stakeholder system is not going to self organise, far from it. Therefore, we need someone to do that for us. That's governments acting with really intelligent policy, and first class implementation.

Judith Batchelar:
I think for me, the hard line between where do you need the public sector involvement, and where can you rely on the private sector to get on with it, is this understanding of what either citizens or the markets will do for themselves, in the way that they will self organise. If I think of some of the things that have happened voluntarily over the years, there have been some really big steps forward with things like nutrition labelling, multiple traffic light labelling, those kind of things.

Judith Batchelar:
Which weren't actually, people forget, but they weren't turned into regulation until 2015. By that point, we'd had nutrition labelling on packaging for 15 years in the standardised format because actually, that's what consumers wanted, and that's what business wanted. To be able to label products accurately. However, this is not quite as simple as putting nutrition labelling on a packet. Therefore, we do need government to do what markets and what citizens won't do for themselves. That, also, has to operate within a global context. That's the bit that's really difficult, because the challenge around policy, UK policy at home is one thing.

Judith Batchelar:
But then, the big question you always get asked is, well, what about everything that we import? Is it a level playing field? Is food that's produced elsewhere in the world produced at the same standards, so on and so forth? So I think we do need that, because we've just been talking about greenhouse gas reporting. The challenge about greenhouse gases are that they know no corporates or geographical boundaries. The greenhouse gases are everybody's problem. But other things aren't.

Judith Batchelar:
Therefore, there are competitive advantages if the policy makers aren't there doing a good job for us. So I'm a big supporter of intelligent policy, where the markets and citizens won't do it for themselves, and where we drive first class implementation. Because that's the bottom line, isn't it, really? But again, reasons to be optimistic, we've done some amazing things in the last two or three years that show what we're capable of if we really put our minds to it. So I'm cautiously optimistic that we can do this.

Jamie Dujardin:
How do we ensure that public and private actors do work effectively together? Where does the role of policy and the public sector and translation into the private sector begin?

Stephen Mackenzie:
Okay. So I suppose from our perspective in the areas that we work on at WRAP, we very much play an intermediary role between those two areas. So we're very much in live discussion with policy makers, but also with sector bodies, and groups of industry that have come together to make specific commitments on important issues. Apart from playing that intermediary role, we can only set the direction of travel in terms of achieving those objectives based on the willingness and desire of industry to sign up to them.

Stephen Mackenzie:
It's not always policy that drives that kind of signing up to high level agreements on important issues. But that action can always be turbo charged by policy makers locally by making it a clear priority, providing funding, and providing clear direction on what the goals are from the government perspective. So if I give an example in relation to the scope three, we've just been talking before about what are the hot spots, what are the key areas where emissions are being driven? We've talked about data, and we've talked about the idea that the burden is sometimes falling on producers, and not necessarily the benefits from reduced emissions from producing food.

Stephen Mackenzie:
Now, it would be on government to help define through policy what a new model would look like that would reward as a market for producing low carbon food in the UK. There is current opportunity to do that through the environmental land management program. But equally, without any action there, businesses may step in and come up with alternative models. But it's less likely effectively. So there are certain areas where it really is important that we get government action.

Stephen Mackenzie:
However, these issues being beyond national boundaries, particularly the greenhouse gas issue, and the idea that some of these things are driven by investment and perceived risk in businesses not taking action, businesses will find ways to take action within the current infrastructure that they exist in. But you can always make that infrastructure more helpful.

Jamie Dujardin:
I think how we change the system, and then how that is implemented are two steps in terms of creating change. There are roles on both sides of the public and private boundaries in order to make sure that happens effectively, and as quickly as possible in the current circumstances as well. The next few years are absolutely critical in aligning to a 1.5 degree temperature trajectory. So what is WRAP looking to focus on in particular in the next three to five years? Where should the food sector as a whole be directing their efforts to achieve that ambition?

Stephen Mackenzie:
I'm going to refer again back to an analysis that we produced in 2021 on an overall potential pathway for the UK food systems to achieve their 50% target ambition for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. From the WRAP perspective, we would be looking to focus on going into more detail on what that pathway looks like in terms of specific actions for businesses.

Stephen Mackenzie:
We have produced some kind of top level areas where action is really needed in one of the charts in that report, we call the waterfall chart, which effectively gives these cascading steps of areas where action would lead to a certain estimated level of emissions reduction. But I think there is clear desire from businesses and from us for that pathway to be filled out in a more concrete way, and we'll be focusing on that. Then when you talk about a longer period, the three to five years, holding people to account as to whether those actions have been implemented.


Stephen Mackenzie:
But in terms of the priority action areas within that analysis, you would see that there needs to be clear action on achieving efforts to ensure that deforestation is less of a factor in the UK food system, that kind of is a huge chunk. 10, 11% of emissions that could be reduced, if clear and coordinated action was taken. We mentioned before the necessity of energy market decarbonisation to help businesses achieve those.

Stephen Mackenzie:
Again, we're talking about between 13 and 15% of the UK food emissions could be reduced just through action in that area. Also, one of the areas we'd be looking to explore further would be implementation of recommendations around dietary change. We identified in that analysis the idea that the adoption of the eat well guide could produce, and this is an approximate estimate, around 9% reduction in emissions from the UK food system. We'd be looking to define more clearly, in collaboration with others working in that space, what the potential is there, and what the realistic potential is there. Because it's an area that drives a lot of interest. I think it needs more understanding.

Jamie Dujardin:
It's really exciting to see that you're going from defining these big levers, and making it clearer and aligned what they are, to how do we start acting on those big levers? Why is the guidance to make change quickly, and make it effectively as well-

Judith Batchelar:
I was just going to add to that, because Stephen talked about this massive transformation for the eat well guide. That's something that everyone can do, because three times a day, if you eat three meals a day, you've got an opportunity to do something about the nature and climate crisis. But you've also got something that you can do to take positive action for your own personal health, as well as the health of the planet.

Judith Batchelar:
But there is the kind of elephant in the room to that, which is even if tomorrow everyone said, "I'm going to eat the eat well guide, and we're going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water use, we're all going to live longer," so on and so forth, the world actually doesn't produce what the world needs to be eating. So we've got these big global system transformations to drive, which is why governments working both at home and internationally to understand these great, big transformations, what's required to make them happen at pace and scale.

Judith Batchelar:
If you look at any big transformation over time, you get to those tipping points, don't you? Where suddenly consumers get it. Then supply and demand can't be matched, because we've all been hedging our bets for too long, and then when customers finally vote with their feet, we don't show up for them. So I think there is this bit of what we would call in the market push and pull, how much pull from consumers, how much push from the system is required to create these massive transformations?

Judith Batchelar:
In many respects, I think the transformation from the world producing what the world should be eating from where it is today is probably more complicated than the decarbonisation agenda. If I'm being honest, because we don't all eat the same foods. If you look at the cultural differences in what the national dietary guidelines look like in India, or Indonesia versus the national dietary guidelines in the UK or the rest of Europe. There is a few big systems transformations to happen.

Jamie Dujardin:
That's interesting, also. Really shined a light on how interconnected a number of these challenges are going to be for the food system. Changing of diets, changing of food systems, changing of emissions. But also land use, all of these impacts that you both have mentioned tackling that all at once is one of the great challenges. To round off, I would love to ask you both the same question. What's the main piece of advice that you would give to a business leader today who is trying to reduce their scope for emissions, and accelerate action in their supply chain?

Judith Batchelar:
Mine is hugely practical, because at the end of the day, I'm a practitioner. So I'm normally the person at the end of all of this who has to make it happen. So I would say absolutely be ruthless about focusing on the 80/20 rule, because that's the only way that we're going to cut through all of the noise around this.

Judith Batchelar:
I talked earlier about looking for the points of consolidation, where people can all agree those points of interest in value systems, because that's where the mutual benefits are. That's where you'll get pace and scale. Then I suppose the last one is don't die under the burden of the data, because how much is enough? How good is good enough? Collect it once, and multipurpose it several times. Those would be my top three things.

Jamie Dujardin:
Stephen?

Stephen Mackenzie:
Some of my points are going to actually echo Judith's a bit there. But one of the three things that I was going to talk about was particularly thinking earlier about how you're going to get the data that's going to enable you to justify the actions that you take. So being very clear that when you're making business decisions with financial implications, that they're at least going to achieve the outcome of reducing your greenhouse gas that you set out to do in the first place. Because that's ultimately going to be the thing that enables you to go and do things that may be required by investors or governments in the future relating to climate related financial disclosures and things like that. You're going to have a solid evidence base that you've acted in that way, and that it's achieved those outcomes.

Stephen Mackenzie:
In addition to that is to be pragmatic about the data available to you. To act in the best faith with the data that you can get and you can use, and not to delay action just based on the idea that you don't have the perfect picture. If we're going to go into precedents from other crises, we've seen time and time again, in relation to COVID, scientists come on, and say, "We needed to act before we had the perfect data to understand the decision that we needed to make." By the time we have the data to understand that we were in the next wave, or we had the next variant, it was too late.

Stephen Mackenzie:
The final thing would be to collaborate. I mentioned earlier in this podcast, it's not a zero sum game. The sector can share learnings if people engage with forums. I'm obviously from WRAP going to plug the Courtauld Commitment as one of those forums that the UK sector can engage with. But there is many more out there besides that. You can engage with forums to act collaboratively, to share information where you can, to ensure that kind of level playing field that enables good faith in the sectors for people to act is created so that you can see the benefits of the action that you take, and people have faith that they've achieved those outcomes.

Jamie Dujardin:
Thank you both so much for those answers, because they're really eyeopening. So I would love to say from my side, a huge thank you. But also, three things that I have just taken away from this that I think have come up a couple of times. The first was one of the great data challenges we're going to face or are facing is fragmentation. Whether that's fragmentation in the number of players that we need to tackle, or the standards that we have to measure to, or the measurement techniques that we are using. All of that is creating a huge burden and challenge, and this focus on the 80/20, getting to a good answer, and then being able to act based on that is really important. You've both just reiterated that.

Jamie Dujardin:
The second thing that I just absolutely love this term and have taken away from this as well is this concept of a connected business case, and how we are going to get to the connected business case to create action. The reason I love that so much is it really lands this point of joint engagement and collaboration is necessary to tackle this crisis, and it's not a we can act on our own, in our own little bubble over here. We need to work together, and working towards these collective business cases, or connected business cases is really important.

Jamie Dujardin:
The third one is, I guess, one of the most interesting ones, just strategically as well, is we had some big global system transformations that are about to come from this. The other piece of that is that a lot of the investment that will go in may not lead to return on investment in exactly the same place. So how will we manage this transition in an equitable but fast way is something that is going to be exceptionally challenging, and I think explains exactly why we will need both the public sector and obviously the private sector to act together. Thank you both so much. It's been an interesting conversation from my side. It's been absolutely wonderful.

Judith Batchelar:
Thank you. Really enjoyed the conversation. I think we could go on for hours, couldn't we? But it's probably enough for now. Until the next installment.

Jamie Dujardin:
Thanks for listening to today's episode of This is Altruistic. Do get in touch if you're on a journey to understanding your business's environmental impact. The notes from this episode are available in the show notes below, and you can find more episodes of This is Altruistic podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and Google Podcast.

Useful links
UK Food Systems GHG Emissions - https://wrap.org.uk/resources/report/uk-food-system-ghg-emissions
WRAP’s Scope 3 Protocols - https://wrap.org.uk/resources/guide/scope-3-ghg-measurement-and-reporting-protocols-food-and-drink
The Courtauld Commitment 2030 - https://wrap.org.uk/taking-action/food-drink/initiatives/courtauld-commitment