Morrisons has revealed an ambition to become the first UK supermarket to use only farms certified as net-zero when sourcing products and ingredients from British suppliers.
The business currently works with 3,000 farmers and growers across the UK to source lines including meat and produce. Over the next nine years, it will help them to achieve net-zero business models.
Morrisons will start working with a select group of farmers to develop models that are net-zero across the lifecycle. Models will likely include switching to renewable energy, reducing water and fertiliser use and regenerative agricultural practices that help improve soil’s capacity to sequester carbon.
Offsetting will be posed as a last step and farmers will be encouraged to restore grassland, peatland, forest and hedgerows on their own estate or elsewhere in the UK rather than purchasing carbon credits that fund projects overseas.
Morrisons has also stated that, in the long-term, it may switch supply contracts to reduce the miles travelled by products. It will also support cattle farmers to switch to different animal breeds that produce less methane.
Once the blueprint models are developed, Morrisons expects implementation to be rapid across its network of farmers and growers. It believes that net-zero certified eggs will be ready for launch by 2022 as the first product.
Morrisons is working with the National Union of Farmers (NFU) and Natural England to help deliver the changes needed. It has also set up a school of sustainable farming at Harper Adams Agricultural University to help provide farmers with the necessary training.
The commitment does not mean that Morrisons will stop sourcing some lines from overseas. Products like tropical fruits, tea, rice and chocolate are very challenging to produce in the UK’s climate. It covers all products and ingredients sourced from the UK across Morrisons’ own-brand lines. It is not yet clear whether Morrisons will ask the third-party brands it stocks to follow suit.
“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges for our generation and growing food is a key contributor to greenhouse gas emissions,” Morrisons’ chief executive David Potts said.
“As British farming’s biggest supermarket customer, we’re in a unique position to guide our farms and help lead changes in environmental practices. It’s years ahead of industry expectations - and an ambitious target - but it’s our duty to do it.”