Food production

Your UK Business Climate Hub net zero plan as a food manufacturer.


  1. Understand your business emissions
  2. Get finance and support
  3. Actions you can take right now
  4. Longer term actions
  5. Indirect emissions
  6. Share your progress

Understand your business emissions

1) What causes emissions

Food and drink manufacturers are directly responsible for:

  • direct emissions from sources that a company owns or controls (scope 1 emissions)
  • indirect emissions from energy bought and consumed by the company(scope 2 emissions)

These emissions mainly come from the manufacturing process and include:

  • process emissions
  • fuel for heating and transport
  • refrigerant gases
  • off-site generation of electricity

However, indirect emissions that occur upstream (from the supply chain) and downstream (through customer use) typically account for most food and beverage businesses’ emissions.

These are known as scope 3 emissions and include:

  • upstream and downstream transportation and distribution
  • purchased goods and services
  • waste generated in operations
  • processing of sold products
  • use of sold products
  • end of life treatment of sold products

2) Measure your emissions

Knowing how much carbon your business produces is an important step for reducing emissions from your own operations and the products you sell.

You need to measure your greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to establish a baseline and find out where to focus your reduction efforts.

You can use a free carbon calculator to work out your business’s carbon footprint. This is measured in tonnes, over a year.

You should focus on measuring, reporting and reducing scope 3 emissions as well as scope 1 and 2 emissions, as purchased goods will be the largest share of your carbon footprint.

For more guidance on measuring your carbon footprint, visit ‘Measure your carbon emissions’.

Use Wrap’s guide to find out more about measuring and reporting scope 3 emissions for food and drink.

3) Sign up to the SME climate commitment

Sign up to the SME Climate Commitment pledge to:

  • let your stakeholders know your targets
  • show customers you are committed to reducing emissions

Get finance and support

1) Get help and advice from the following organisations:

You can also learn how to run your business in a more environmentally friendly way by hiring a sustainability consultant.

2) Get financial support

Find out about grants, schemes and loan programmes are available across the UK and in your region.

Actions you can take right now

1) Save energy at your office and workplace

Quick, low-cost actions include:

  • lighting – use LED bulbs for greater efficiency
  • heating – put your thermostat on a timer and seal your windows for extra insulation
  • office equipment – try to turn off and unplug devices when they’re not being used

You can save money by efficiently using catering equipment.

Train your staff to:

  • switch off and turn down equipment when it is not required
  • label equipment with its pre-heat time and only switch on when it is required
  • choose correct saucepan sizes and use lids where possible
  • clean and maintain equipment including door seals and gas burners

2) Do an energy walk-round

Walk around your buildings to see if energy is being used efficiently.

Prepare a checklist

  • look at lighting, machinery, heating, refrigeration systems and ventilation
  • identify wasteful energy use and maintenance issues
  • check at different times of day and compare day and night time use
  • monitor over a period of a week for accurate average figures

You must properly maintain equipment. Otherwise, it will gradually use more energy and eventually break down. Establish a simple maintenance schedule to save on energy and costs.

With refrigerators and freezers, make sure you :

  • follow defrost procedures
  • check door seals on cold rooms, fridges and frozen food stores
  • keep chiller and freezer door openings to a minimum
  • keep condensers clean and free of dust
  • check systems have the correct amount of refrigerant
  • maintain correct temperatures and avoid over-cooling

Energy consumption can be reduced by 2–4% if the set cooling temperature can be increased by 1°C.

Learn more about reducing emissions caused by refrigeration.

3) Decide if you need an energy strategy

Depending on the size of your business, you might need to implement an energy management strategy. An energy manager will help you:

  1. Measure and monitor energy use.
  2. Target ways to use energy as efficiently as possible.

Find out more from the Carbon Trust.

 4) Train your workforce

You can train your team to be aware of energy efficiency in the workplace. Find a sustainability training course.

5) Change your energy tariff

Switch to a green energy tariff with your energy supplier. This will reduce your reliance on energy produced by fossil fuels.

6) Switch to a smart meter

This will allow you to see and control how much energy you use. Find out more about smart meters.

7) Manage your waste

Reduce waste streams and improve your product output to lower carbon emissions. As a priority, prevent waste from being taken to landfill sites where it takes longer to break down and causes more emissions.

Try to:

  • minimise waste by planning recipes that make efficient use of raw materials
  • explore innovative ways to redistribute or donate surplus food
  • re-use food in future menus
  • plan and order carefully to avoid overstocking and wastage
  • train your staff on product shelf life, expiry dates and portion control

Find out how you can reduce waste and recycle more

Longer term actions

1) Make changes to your workplace

You can make long-term savings on energy bills by insulating your workplace and replacing old windows.

Check planning permission guidelines before you go ahead with any structural changes to the property.

Invest in good quality storage equipment to make sure ingredients have the best chance of staying fresher for longer. You should consider replacing kitchen equipment:

  • that is over 15 years old
  • with the models using the European A–G efficiency label

2) Install renewables

If you are the legal owner of your property, you might consider installing renewable sources of energy.

For example:

By doing so, you could make significant long-term savings on energy bills.

3) Reduce emissions from travel and transport

Reduce emissions from freight and logistics

Over a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions are caused by transport. You can take these steps to minimise carbon emissions:

  • improve delivery routes to minimise travel distances
  • use low emission and fuel-efficient transportation such as rail and shipping for raw material sourcing
  • source raw materials for food products from as close as possible
  • use appropriate delivery vehicles to maximise fill ratios
  • reduce emissions when transporting refrigerated goods.

Find out more about how to reduce emissions from freight and logistics.

Switch employees’s travel habits

If you have employees you could introduce a cycle-to-work initiative or encourage them to take public transport.

Visit our page on switching employee mode of transport for guidance.

Switch to electric vehicles

If you use a work vehicle, you can reduce emissions by switching over to an electric vehicle (EV). You would be exempt from road tax, congestion charges and parking fees in certain areas.

For easy overnight charging you could install EV chargers at your home or workplace.

Visit our page to find out more about installing chargepoints.

4) Use sustainable product packaging

Use packaging that is:

  • compact – oversized packaging is often filled with unnecessary air
  • lightweight – consider using packaging made from a single material to facilitate recycling for consumers

Replace plastic, where possible, with recycled or compostable substitutes.

Types of sustainable packing include:

  • plant-based packaging
  • edible packaging – made from seaweed extract
  • compostable and biodegradable plastic alternatives
  • plantable packaging – which is made from seeds and can be buried in soil

5) Get product labels and certifications

You can use low carbon labels (otherwise known as eco labels or green stickers)
and sustainability certifications to show that your products:

  • meet environmental standards
  • are reducing emissions

Visit our page to find out more about how to get low carbon product labels and certifications.

6) Reformulate products to reduce emissions

You can also reduce emissions through ingredient substitutions and new product development. Actions include using:

  • plant-based ingredients
  • dairy alternatives
  • lower-GHG food ingredients

Indirect emissions

1) Decarbonise process heat

Take steps to reduce carbon emissions from production and cold storage and move towards net-zero.

You can do this by upgrading to more efficient equipment, optimising production processes, and implementing energy management systems.

Visit these pages to find out more about how to:


2) Choose greener ‘upstream’ suppliers and products

To reduce indirect or ‘supply chain’ emissions you need to consider what happens before and after your business provides a service or makes a product.

  • use suppliers that measure and reduce carbon
  • help your suppliers with carbon reduction projects
  • buy products that take less energy to make, transport and operate

Find out more about how to source products and services from green suppliers.

Learn how to become a ‘net zero ready’ supplier.

3) Reduce emissions ‘downstream’ of your business

To reduce indirect or ‘supply chain’ emissions you need to consider what happens after your business provides a service or makes a product.

  • make products that take less energy to make, transport and operate
  • reduce water consumption and waste disposal needs
  • make investments in lower carbon financial products
  • give incentives for lower emission activities in leased assets or franchises

Share your progress

Sharing your progress will help employees and customers feel confident that you’re reducing carbon and moving towards net zero.

You should share your progress once you’ve done both of the following:

  • worked out a benchmark of emissions
  • started to take action

Find out more about how to track and share your progress.