UK supermarket chains Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose, along with US chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebout, are participating in a $11m pilot scheme to protect Brazil’s cerrado grassland biome. The green bonds programme will provide incentives initially to 36 farmers to not clear or convert land for agriculture and to practice cultivation that is free from deforestation.
Initially farmers will receive funds for making high-level commitments and then, in turn, for delivering on them. The trial period may be extended to four years. Known as the responsible commodities facility, part of the plans for the pilot phase are to monitor progress to see how such incentive schemes work best in practice and to try and generate further support.
Water use and water resource allocation is increasingly a critical issue for many companies. Putting more pressure on water treatment facilities is new research from scientists at Stockholm University in Sweden that shows levels of chemicals in rainwater greatly exceeding safety levels. Perhaps most worryingly, scientists say that such is the level of the chemicals, there is no place on the planet where they can be avoided in rainwater.
The substances of concern are known as PFAS, used for example in non-stick frying pans, paint, packaging and water repellent clothing. They are dubbed “forever chemicals” because of the length of time they persist in the environment.
Apparel waste linked to toxic brick factories
A new human-rights-related risk for the apparel sector has emerged via a new piece of work from Greenpeace’s investigative journalist division Unearthed. The group has revealed that waste material from Cambodian factories supplying major fashion brands is being used as fuel in brick kilns, subsequently exposing workers to toxic fumes.
The Unearthed team found garment scraps, labels and tags from Nike, Ralph Lauren, Reebok, Next, Diesel and others at five different kilns at brick factories and evidence that the garments were being used in the fires. The incineration of garment waste releases toxic chemicals with health impacts on workers reportedly including respiratory conditions such as coughs and colds, nose bleeds and inflammation of lungs. Alongside these human rights concerns, disposing of garment waste in this way also increases the carbon footprint of the apparel brands affected – brands that have in many cases made big net zero commitments.
What’s in 57k food lines?
There is another new initiative to get consumers more engaged with the impact of the food they consume. This time it’s in the UK, with researchers from the University of Oxford using public databases to create estimates of what’s in thousands of food products on supermarket shelves. In total the researchers have calculated the composition of 57,000 food and drink product lines at UK supermarkets, assessing growing methods, processing and transport, and impacts on carbon emissions and other environmental metrics.
Unsurprisingly products containing meat and dairy tend to have scores indicating higher impacts compared to plant based alternatives. What’s perhaps more interesting for consumers is the big difference in impacts within product categories. Speaking to the BBC, one of the Oxford scientists leading the research highlighted that the most impactful pork sausage scored a third higher than the least impactful. Another key finding is that small tweaks to recipes can make significant change to overall product impact.