Pen and paper…

Thoughts, ideas, questions, experiences

Courtauld Commitment: too easy to ‘opt out?’ March 18, 2010

I have previously mentioned the Courtauld Commitment – a voluntary agreement set up by WRAP which aims to improve resource efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of the food retail sector. Well, from the first phase, the agreement is moving on to bigger objectives.

A brief summary from WRAP’s site:

Phase 2 follows the original Courtauld Commitment (Phase 1), launched in 2005. It moves away from solely weight-based targets and aims to achieve more sustainable use of resources over the entire lifecycle of products, throughout the whole supply chain. 

At the launch of the Commitment on 4th March 2010, 29 major retailers and brand owners had already pledged their commitment to this voluntary agreement.

News today says that one of the signatories of Phase 1 has pulled out of the agreement because it has reduced packaging by 13%. Packaging News announced that United Biscuits – think McVitie’s, Hula Hoops and Jaffa Cakes – ‘will not be signing up to the second phase of the Courtauld Commitment (CC2) after revealing a 13% reduction in its packaging in the past seven years.’

My comment on the article:

What a shame that UB feels that it cannot commit to further improving its savings and figures. It has clearly made good progress and whilst it may have achieved targets early – why stop now?

I think looking ahead, this could be where ‘voluntary’ agreements like the Courtauld Commitment could run into problems as its far too easy for companies to ‘opt out’ again.

Reviewing and setting more achievable targets may prevent this happening – little steps forward has to be better than throwing in the towel?

As I have mentioned somewhere before, I have reservations that ‘voluntary’ sign in schemes such as the CC2 will continue to keep up their current success. Don’t get me wrong – they’re a great idea that many more food packaging manufacturers and retailers should be getting on board with – but I feel that they may well prove a little too easy to ‘opt out’ of when the going gets tough and targets aren’t being met.

Is it just me or is there a genuine ‘weakness’ in the idea of a ‘voluntary’ scheme? Does there come a point when reducing waste, using materials efficiently and taking recycling seriously is not optional? I acknowledge there are rules and regs and boxes to tick but I think more could be done.

On another note – having delved deeper into the CC2 – I found that Muller Dairy based in Shropshire are one of the 29 companies who have signed up to the commitment.

I approached them for comment and was informed by Sarah Street:

Thanks for your email, we don’t have much more to say regarding WRAP as all that we have done at this stage is commit.

 Our CSR Highlights document will be out soon and that will contain target information.  I’ll let you know when it is available.

So may be I’ll revisit this again when Muller’s document is released. Will be interesting to see if any more sign up – or like United Biscuits, any more drop out.


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