That is the key point raised by Mark Barthel, special adviser and head of design at the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), at an Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group conference on sustainability in the retail sector in central London on Tuesday (March 22).
Mr Barthel said the successor to the second phase of the Courtauld Commitment, a voluntary grocery sector agreement which is set to end in 2012, would have increased “complexity” and outline targets across a raft of environmental areas.
And, he said the first Courtauld Commitment, which ran from 2005 to 2010, had been based primarily on achieving tonnage reductions in packaging and food waste, which he branded “dumb”.
“Our approach was tonnage-based which was dumb, in a way,” he said. “We just talked about tonnes of stuff. What we are trying to do in particular is focus on the impact in carbon terms and make it, simply, more intelligent.
“We have gone from tonnages to tonnages, CO2 and pound notes and now we are starting to discuss with those companies about the next generation of voluntary agreements. And, we are talking about quite sophisticated stuff with five markers under one umbrella.”
Mr Barthel said the third Courtauld Commitment would build on work in the first two phases of the agreement around household and supply chain waste and look to address issues around grocery products, such as the environmental impacts of packaging.
Mr Barthel outlined some of the key achievements of the first Courtauld Commitment, which saw signatories successfully halt growth in packaging waste and exceed its targets on food waste reduction (see letsrecycle.com story).
He said he was confident that the second phase, which was launched in June 2010, would be successful as the focus on supply chain waste was galvanising retailers’ efforts.
Mr Barthel said: “What we have found with supermarkets is there is a huge commercial imperative there.”
Also speaking at the event, Bob Gordon, environment policy adviser at the British Retail Consortium, warned of the on-going challenge for the retail sector to decouple growth in sales from growth in waste and carbon emissions.
Mr Gordon also addressed the ongoing review of waste policy and said he hoped the review would lead to “stronger leadership” from government for the retail sector.
“We would like to see strong leadership from government in the waste policy review,” he said. “I say that because in the context of nobody wanting to see an unsustainable future and we need government to provide a framework that allows people to be encouraged to do the right thing.”