Two years ago the government published their 25 Year Environment Plan; an ambitious vision for how we can improve the environment within a generation here in the UK.
That summer John, our CEO and co-founder, set up the Council for Sustainable Business (CSB) at the request of government, with a mandate to “act as sounding board, challenger, critic, innovator and advisor to the Secretary of State, Ministers and Defra policy teams.” Encouraged by John, as chair, to focus on achievable action, the Council has made recommendations to the government on plastics and now carbon and biodiversity. All of the recommendations are based on what is ambitious, yet feasible for business to act on with the involvement of government.
A significant and exciting next step was yesterday’s launch of the CSB Commitments, which are designed to secure the engagement and action of British business for a ‘decade of difference’. The 14 commitments are divided between the measurement and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and increased support for biodiversity, leading to net gain biodiversity across the country.
The commitments are both stretching but necessary, particularly for a business like ours for whom agriculture is a significant contributor to our value chain emissions. LEON is proud to have signed up to all 14 commitments, which will require significant work and time, on our own and in collaboration with our suppliers and partners.
The launch event saw the CSB CEO Liv Garfield introduce a host of speakers and experts, interspersed with business leaders from the near 100 businesses who had signed up in advance of the day. The highlights were the appearance of Alok Sharma, COP26 president, and George Eustace of Defra, the government department that plays a significant part in the work of the CSB. We believe this is a tremendous opportunity to create momentum ahead of the re-scheduled COP26 event in Glasgow in 2021, as well as shape the decisions we take at LEON and the work we do for the next ten years, bringing us ever closer to our suppliers.
While the majority of the businesses signed up yesterday were significantly bigger than ours, we do think that in our industry collaborations of the many will create the kind of sustained change that’s needed. The food and drink industry is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector (source), along with agriculture, contributing 10% of the UK’s emissions (source), so there is a lot at stake.
What are our next steps? Firstly to start the conversations with our stakeholders about the work required to honour these commitments and to encourage as many other businesses in our industry to sign up to the commitments themselves - the CSB website, where they can sign up, will go live in the next few days. We’ll share it as soon as it does.