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WWF's “Principles Of Sustainable Food Systems” - A Scientific Recommendation For Food Industry Transformation

The principles were developed within the partnership of Tesco and WWF, covering Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, since 2021.

  • Global food production is fuelling the climate crisis and is currently one of the biggest threats to our planet
  • WWF has created seven actionable principles in order to guide the food industry in Central Europe toward more sustainable production practices
  • The principles were introduced at the Conference on Sustainable Food Systems in Central Europe: The Power is on our Plates in Prague, co-organized with Tesco
  • Tesco committed to the principles and together with WWF are inviting the rest of the food industry in Central Europe to join the initiative

Budapest, Bratislava, Prague – 28.10. 2022

Currently, global food production is fuelling the climate crisis, contributing with 30% of human-made greenhouse gas emissions. While agriculture has occupied half of all habitable land on the planet, the food system is also one of the biggest threats to nature, causing 60% of global biodiversity loss. To guide the industry towards a transformation at the scale and speed that is critically needed, WWF has created seven Principles for Sustainable Food Systems in Central Europe, which have been adapted by Tesco for implementation in its own business and with its partners to support the transformation for sustainable production and consumption.

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The document has been presented on Wednesday at the regional conference under the motto “The Power is on our Plates”. More than 100 business leaders, sustainability experts, and elected officials from all around Europe have gathered in Prague and over 300 attendees have joined virtually at the time of the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The hybrid event was co-organized by WWF and their corporate partner Tesco CE, under the auspices of Mikuláš Bek, Minister for European Affairs of the Czech Republic. At the conference Tesco publicly announced their official commitment to the principles and together with WWF invited the food industry in Central Europe to join the commitment for a collective action and adopt the principles in their operations. Both organizations also agreed that a more targeted support from policy makers would help to accelerate the change towards more sustainable food systems.

The dependency of food businesses on the natural world and the need for greater knowledge throughout the entire supply chain have been emphasized by several speakers. According to the results of the consultation on the sustainable EU food system presented by David Zima, Head of Department for Official Control in Food Chain at Ministry of Agriculture, 50% of the consumers find it difficult to make sustainable choices: „We need to ensure that we have a greater knowledge how to play our part in achieving sustainability.

Christel Delberghe, Director General of EuroCommerce, a European organisation representing the retail and wholesale sector, pointed out the important role of this sector not only in providing an essential service to citizens every day: „Retailers have shown over the past years leadership in addressing sustainability. We play a key role in pushing forward more sustainable products and nudging consumers towards more sustainable choices.Vojtěch Kotecký, Sustainability researcher, Charles University Environment Centre in Prague, stressed that while the carbon footprint remains as the key concern for businesses in the area of sustainability, they will need to focus on other additional, overlapping agendas - climate resilience and nature restoration, adding that „it is very important to realise that the role of business in sustainability is not about social responsibility. This is basically risk management.“ As Giulia Riedo, WWF European Policy Office, Senior Policy Officer at Agriculture and Sustainable Food System, said while discussing the need for a resilient European Food System: „A future without nature is a future without food.

WWF Principles for Sustainable Food Systems in Central Europe is a scientific evidence-based recommendation for retailers, food processors, and food producers. Specific goals are set for the food industry in areas such as Climate, Food waste, Packaging, Deforestation and Conversion, Agriculture, Fishery and Aquaculture, and Diets. As explained by Tesco, adopting these principles in business practice is a journey to cut emissions, reduce food waste and make packaging more sustainable as well as working with partners to improve supply and help make sustainable choices affordable and attractive for customers.

Food is central to our health and the health of the planet. At Tesco we've taken important first steps to cut our emissions, reduce food waste and remove hard to recycle materials from our packaging. And I’m delighted our strategic Tesco Product Partners are doing the same. But to truly transform the food system, we need to change the way we work together as an industry along the entire supply chain. I’m proud to be publishing today the action plan we have been working towards in our own operations and I hope more businesses in the sector will work together to implement their own action plans to in line with the principles developed by WWF,” Matt Simister, Tesco CE CEO commented on the Tesco approach.

"I welcome this commitment made by one of the largest retail chains in Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. There is a lot to do, and I am looking forward to working together on defining specific actions for Tesco. Together, we have the power to bring food to the top of conservation, climate, and development agendas and help deliver results that protect our future. Food systems are currently the biggest driver of nature loss and a significant cause of greenhouse gas emissions. There are solutions for reducing this impact. This is why food systems also represent the biggest opportunity. To truly transform the food system, we need to work together. That is why we invite all leading actors in the Central European food market to join the initiative and adapt those principles to their own practices and operations,” says Andreas Beckmann, CEO of WWF Central and Eastern Europe.

Sustainable food systems are central to global health, food and biodiversity. Recently published WWF’s Living Planet Report (LPR) 2022 emphasizes that food systems are core to bending the curve on biodiversity loss and achieving a 1.5 C future. LPR has found that wildlife species have dropped by 69 percent on average since 1970 and food systems are one of the largest causes: 70% of all biodiversity loss on land and 50% in freshwater is closely linked to how we produce food and what we eat.

Without significant changes to the food system, it is not possible to meet global climate commitments, stem biodiversity loss, or ensure food security for the global population. WWF together with Tesco invite retailers and food producers to join the principles and implement them into their business and policy makers to support them in this critical journey.

As Andreas Beckmann from WWF CEE concluded in his final remarks: „On one hand you have the discussion about policy and on the other hand you have the individual firms and it is always difficult to make that stretch. You need to talk at a higher level, which is very abstract; at the same time, it has to come on the ground and we need to have those connections. That's where associations play an important role to translate the needs, the realities of the grass roots and bring them to a higher, policy level. But the middle part of the value chain is also important. That's why I am very happy to be working with Tesco, because you play this really important role between the consumers on one hand and the producers on the other and the governments to a certain extent as well.

While producers, suppliers, retailers, and policy-makers have the responsibility to build a sustainable and secure supply, every single person can become part of the change by making sure that a sustainable demand is also developing. As part of the partnership with Tesco WWF has prepared the Good for You, Good for the Planet campaign to guide people towards a healthier life and a healthier planet as well. For this purpose the organizations have developed six simple tips for a sustainable diet: eat more plants, vary your diet, waste less food, moderate your meat consumption, eat certified foods, eat less fat, sugar and salt. Each one of these six simple tips for sustainable life is equally important and brings a positive change.

Together we can make a shift towards more sustainable food production and consumption.

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