Around 50% of direct UK food supply is met from production in other countries (Defra 2017). The UK is also heavily reliant on imports for many other commodities, such as minerals and fuels. Imports embedded within composite products (such as palm oil as an ingredient in cosmetics) are more difficult to trace, but also make up a substantial proportion of UK consumption. Therefore, addressing the sustainability of UK consumption of commodities grown overseas is at least as important as that of commodities grown in the UK.
The UK government’s 25-year environment plan recognizes the need to better understand the UK’s contribution to such impacts. It sets out a series of indicators to track delivery of progress. One of these indicators (K1) relates to the “overseas environmental impacts of UK consumption of key commodities” and is designed to enable government to measure the risks and impacts associated with UK consumption.
This publication reports on the approach that will be taken to measure against this headline indicator and present preliminary results for agricultural commodities. It describes progress to date on the development of a suite of indicators showing the global environmental impacts of UK consumption.
In the report
The main report describes the processes being undertaken, including the project background, structure, input from both a steering group and a wider stakeholder group, considerations of alignment with the existing UK Carbon Footprint and development of a dataset for the indicator.
Appendix 1 presents a draft indicator, associated with consumption of crop driven agricultural products, for the UK’s material footprint, land use footprint, embedded deforestation impacts and embedded greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from deforestation between 2005 and 2017. This will be used to obtain feedback for improvements before the full release of an experimental statistic at the end of the current project. The experimental statistic will also include additional impact metrics such as biodiversity or water stress and will aim to extend the scope beyond agricultural commodities.
Appendix 2 presents the technical documentation explaining the methods behind the data presented.
Appendix 3 gives additional information on impacts that were calculated but not included in the headline results, as they go into greater detail than an indicator typically would. This includes a breakdown of the source of impact by commodity.
Appendix 4 describes the technical outline of future work planned.
October 2021 update
The experimental statistic has now been released. Read the technical information about the statistic or try out the dashboard commodityfootprints.earth.