Ramping Up Sustainable Food Production: Why everyone has a stake in the Food Transition for all

A woman picks strawberries from organic crops in Garibaldi, Rio do Sul, Brazil, August 2020. Banner image: Shutterstock/Maila Facchini

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One of the major challenges of the 21st century is what we at Carrefour call the Food Transition. In 2019, Carrefour defined its “raison d’être”, its mission, as the Food Transition for all. What it entails is simple: providing food that is healthy, sustainable and accessible for everyone.

To achieve this, we have set transparent goals with our stakeholders and are taking action at each step of the supply chain. The most strategic objectives are integrated into the CSR & Food Transition Index to track our progress. Our actions range from setting up procurement policies and traceability methods for sensitive raw materials, such as beef in Brazil, to limiting our impact on forests by eliminating unnecessary packaging and using eco-friendly designs.

The Food Transition for all is also about moving beyond our individual supply chains and working to create systemic change.

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First, in our day-to-day operations we focus on promoting and developing sustainable agriculture. Food production has a major impact on the environment, generating 25% to 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions.[1] Between 40% and 70% of food-related emissions occur during the agricultural production phase, with industrial farming methods, including the use of pesticides, causing further harm to health and to biodiversity. [2]

In response, Carrefour has increasingly adopted environmentally-friendly practices across our own-brand product line, Carrefour Quality Lines, via agroecology—methods that use resources and mechanisms provided by nature—and our organic product line, Carrefour Bio. To support French agriculture, we also engage in multiyear contracts to ensure fairer terms for farmers through long-term pricing and volume commitments. These contracts guarantee the quality of products and our ability to meet the needs of our customers.

Second, we take action in store, making our mission clear and visible to the millions of consumers we reach directly each day. This is the objective of our Act for Food programme. In our stores, we offer our customers solutions to use less packaging and choose better quality products at the right price, true to our belief that everyone should have access to quality, sustainable food. For example, we recently launched project Loop, an innovative packaging reuse model. Today, 70% of our organic fruits and vegetables are plastic-free, enabling us to remove 450 metric tonnes of plastic in 2020. This is part of an ongoing effort to achieve our goal of avoiding 20,000 tonnes of packaging by 2025.

Third, we are taking action to reduce our environmental footprint across all activities and ensure regional economic development. Carrefour has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030, and 55% by 2040, which has been approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.[3] This includes improving energy efficiency in-store, the use of bio-methane delivery vehicles and working with our suppliers to facilitate reductions in their emissions.

Finally, we recognise the need to work collectively to achieve our goals. We all—the private sector, civil society and governments—have a role to play.

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Take the issue of deforestation: we know that focusing on individual supply chains is not enough to put an end to it. We need to act collectively to create systemic change. Carrefour has therefore taken the lead of the Consumer Goods Forum Forest Positive Coalition of Action to create industry norms in order to halt deforestation linked to commodities such as soy, palm oil, beef and pulp and paper. In addition, in France we built a retailer and manufacturer-led coalition to further support the French National Strategy to Fight Deforestation (Stratégie nationale de lutte contre la déforestation importée). Together, we have committed to ensuring that imported soy linked to deforestation does not find its way into our supply chain by implementing strict specifications across our own-brand products, and encouraging other stakeholders to share the same ambition. We need other actors to play their part, and we particularly need governments to support these efforts by providing stronger regulation on imported products that contribute to deforestation.

The issue of plastic waste is another area where further collective action is needed. Carrefour helped launch the French National Pact on plastics with other local actors to set up new plastic reduction standards for the national market. The Pact set out a common vision—shared among the private sector, the French government and civil society—to phase out problematic plastic materials that are non-recyclable and move toward a circular economy. This is a powerful example of what we can accomplish when private sector leaders work together.

The challenges that we are facing are so great and pressing that individual action is not enough. We all have a stake in preserving our food systems, and we must work together to co-ordinate our actions and find solutions. The private sector has shown its ability to lead collective action: we need governments to further support and facilitate systemic change.

Find out more about the initiative Food Transition for all and discover Carrefour's concrete actions to make the food transition possible

Find out more about the initiative Food Transition for all and explore what Carrefour is doing to make the food transition possible
Photo: Carrefour

[1][2] Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 360(6392), 987-992.
[3] The Science Based Targets initiative, a partnership between the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the UN Global Compact, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the WWF. Carrefour has been certified, along with more than 800 other companies, in light of its commitment to keeping the global temperature increase to below 2°C by 2100 compared to pre-industrial temperatures.

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Bertrand Swiderski

Global Sustainability Director, Carrefour

Bertrand Swiderski has served as Carrefour’s Global Sustainability Director since 2013. In his capacity, he leads Carrefour’s sustainability strategy and ensures its integration across the Group’s activities worldwide, as part of its mission to lead on the food transition for all. Convinced that the customer is the key to accelerating this transition, he leads projects with partners to develop innovative solutions in store and across Carrefour’s supply chain. Prior to joining Carrefour, He was a founding Partner of CONVIS France, an environmental consulting company firm offering services to public and private enterprises across Europe.