In an effort to make the UK’s food supply more sustainable, leading supermarket chain Lidl says it’s working with produce suppliers to achieve eco-certification by the end of 2023.
Lidl, which operates nearly 900 stores across the UK, and its produce suppliers, will work with the LEAF Marque to improve the nation’s food system. LEAF, which stands for Linking Environment and Farming, is one of the world’s largest and most recognizable schemes for sustainable food production.
“New patterns of production and consumption are emerging across Great Britain, reflecting global geopolitical uncertainty, resource availability and consumer preferences,” Lidl GB’s head of responsible sourcing and ethical trade, Amali Bunter, said in a statement. “As a leading food retailer, we recognise the demand we place on our agricultural resources and the influence we have on our suppliers’ practices.”
LEAF has already made significant progress across the UK. It partnered with Tesco and its suppliers in 2021 with a similar target. By the end of 2022, it aims to certify all its growers in the UK, and for its global partners, by 2025. Waitrose certified all of its UK-grown produce more than a decade ago.
The program says that as of 2021, around 45 percent of UK-grown produce had already achieved LEAF certification. Its goal is 85 percent of UK-grown fruit and vegetables by the start of 2026.
“Our partnership with LEAF builds on the ambitions of our sustainability strategy ‘to Make Good Food Accessible to Everyone’,” says Bunter. She says the program supports more circular farming systems, “which protect and enhance our precious ecosystems and sourcing all our products in a way that respects the environment.”
More than 500 UK farms are already certified— 83 percent of them are managing reservoirs; 67 percent create their own energy; 42 percent track and improve their soil quality; 39 percent use the proprietary LEAF carbon footprint tool to assess their achievements.
Participating farms can achieve the certification through a “whole business” approach that positions the farms toward adopting regenerative farming practice that improves local biodiversity and soil health.
Lidl trialed eco labels on several dozen private label product lines last year as consumers are opting for healthier and more sustainable food choices. The UK, home of Veganuary, is a leading location for vegan food. Lidl offers a wide range of sustainable, plant-based options as well.
Sustainable food supply in the UK
Despite limitations presented by Brexit, Lidl says it will still support efforts to verify sustainability metrics for its global suppliers. It’s working with the Global G.A.P. scheme that operates in more than 120 countries.
The shift to a more sustainable food supply isn’t just happening in the produce aisle at Lidl stores. The supermarket chain said PepsiCo is also working to certify more than 300 of its UK-based Quaker Oats growers by the end of 2023.
The announcements come after the UK Government’s Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs launched two new post-Brexit programs for the agricultural sector that will pay farmers and landowners for efforts to preserve and restore biodiversity beginning in 2023. The ambitious bills received backlash from farmers and trade organizations saying the payments promised aren’t high enough.
Lead image by Michael Burrows from Pexels