Letter from Jim Brisby: COP26 is a reminder that we all have a responsibility to tackle the climate crisis

Chief Commercial Officer Jim Brisby outlines the industry-leading progress Cranswick has made in tackling its emissions, whilst highlighting that sustainability is an ongoing, shared challenge for the whole supply chain.

“COP26 begins this week, and the world’s attention is rightfully focused on this historical climate event. What happens in Glasgow will have a profound impact on the future of our planet and our life on it.

Foremost among discussions between world leaders will be the Paris Agreement, the legally binding treaty set at COP21 in 2015 to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5C. The IPCC’s startling climate change report illustrated the very real possibility of us surpassing that critical threshold unless drastic change is made by industries, organisations and individuals the world over. I’m certainly not alone in hoping that the outcome of COP26 is a clear, strong and unified roadmap for action that meaningfully mitigates climate change and its serious risks to both society and business.

Whatever is decided at COP26, however, there is no doubt that industry has a significant role to play in the climate fight, and we all share a responsibility to step up to the challenge.

At Cranswick, this has been at the top of our agenda for years, guided by our bold, group-wide Second Nature sustainability strategy. It is our ambition to make meat sustainable and central to this is our plan to achieve Net Zero emissions by 2040.

We’ve already seen significant successes. Back in 2018, we signed up to Champions 12.3 and made a commitment to reduce our food waste by 50% by 2025. We hit that goal in 2020 and have now set ourselves the more ambitious target of zero edible food waste by 2030. 

We have recently announced our bold 1.5 degree-aligned Science Based Targets to reduce our absolute Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50%, and our relative Scope 3 emissions by 50% by 2030. We have been praised by the Science Based Target Initiative for our ambition, as we are one of just a few agri-food businesses to include this level of Scope 3 emissions in their 1.5 degree-aligned target.

We’ve recently hit a major milestone in our journey towards this: 14 of our eligible sites are now officially PAS2060 certified as carbon neutral. In our last financial year, we reduced our relative carbon footprint by 18%, achieved through a raft of measures including efficiency improvements, upskilling our teams, and investing in clean energy.

In a combined pork and poultry industry first, we’ve confirmed the move from a book and claim soya certification programme to a full mass balance verification scheme for our soya sourced from South America. This represents 50% of our soya, with the balance sourced from North America. This ensures 100% certified deforestation-free soya and will slash our indirect Scope 3 carbon emissions by 21% compared to our previous system.

This means that Cranswick pays a slightly higher price for feed on our own farms, with a view towards encouraging producers aligned to our retailer partners to move in this direction as a next step, and then encouraging the whole of UK pig and poultry production to follow suit. 

We have been analysing the carbon footprint of our farms since 2017. This has greatly improved our understanding of the sources of emissions, and we know that feed is the most significant driver. By focusing in on the ingredients of the feed, we can reduce the total impact of our livestock. This includes the ongoing work to reduce soya inclusion within the diet and look at alternative sources of protein, including insects. We would also call for a review of the use of cross feeding meat and bone meal, which will help to reduce the level of imported soya in pig and poultry diets and is prevalent in meat sourced from the EU. 

Our achievements come during a very difficult time for the meat industry – which is often the focus of the climate conversation – and there are few leaders at the conference that truly understand the working of the UK agriculture and the food supply chain.

The pig sector is currently going through an extremely challenging period with the impact of labour shortages leaving pigs on farm because of Brexit and the recovery from the pandemic. The supply chain needs to support UK agriculture and bring our producers closer to the consumer in both an economically and environmentally sustainable format.  

Dedicated, transparent supply chains will be key to delivering the targets that we have all signed up to, with many required changes made on farm with more mixed farming, crop rotation and with regenerative systems that help to improve the soil health on which our food system depends.

It is clear that there is a need for collaboration right across the industry to deliver the challenging targets of Net Zero. These partnerships will provide a valuable opportunity to enact real, meaningful change in ensuring meat’s role in a healthy, affordable and – critically – sustainable diet. 

As such, it’s our aim to work more closely with our retail and foodservice customers, as well as our supply partners, to deliver dedicated, simplified and more visible supply chains to enable a full end-to-end supply chain map. We also jointly need to embed it in policies and terms of trade, whether this is supporting the move on soya policy, through longer term sustainable relationships throughout the supply chain or by joining forces to lobby government on the key policy changes we need to support UK agriculture. This will be vital in both our journey towards Net Zero and the longevity of UK agriculture overall.  

We’ve already achieved a lot, but we recognise there’s much more to be done. Cranswick’s position as a leader in our industry is a privilege, and we are committed to pushing the envelope of sustainability not just within our own farm to fork operations, but across our sector as a whole.

COP26 marks a critical point in the world’s climate fight, so I invite you all to join us as we work together towards a better tomorrow for everyone.” 

Jim Brisby, Chief Commercial Officer, Cranswick plc