Two leading experts discuss how food businesses need to be urgently tackling carbon emissions and supporting consumers to make the right choices. They debate where obstacles lie, who should provide support, and how.

Mike Barry, Director of Mike Barry Eco Ltd (former Director of Sustainable Business at Marks & Spencer)

Mike is a change agent, committed to helping business big and small, new and established to prepare for and succeed in the great sustainability disruption that will wash through the economy in the 2020s. He’s worked with organizations such as Unilever, SAP, Grosvenor GB&I, GSK, Kite Insight’s Climate School, Ball, Nestle, Reiss, CCEP, Lidl, Ikea, IBM, Nomad Foods, The Climate Pledge, the Environment Agency, Which, Royal Society of Chemistry, British Retail Consortium, Food and Drink Federation, IGD, Edrington, Lagardere, CoGo, Liverpool University, Clim8Invest, Bord Bia and Climate Action.

Mike was until 2019 Director of Sustainable Business at Marks & Spencer, spearheading its ground-breaking Plan A (because there is no Plan B for the one planet we have) sustainability programme. He co-chaired the Consumer Goods Forum’s sustainability work bringing the world’s largest retailers and fast moving consumer goods brands together to work on issues such as deforestation, plastics and forced labour. He is a Senior Associate at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and a Trustee at Blueprint for Better Business.

Mike Berners-Lee, author of ‘There is No Planet B’, ‘How Bad Are Bananas?’ and ‘The carbon footprint of everything’; professor and consultant.

Mike consults, thinks, writes and researches on sustainability and responses to 21st century problems. He is the author of acclaimed books,  including There is No Planet B: A Handbook for the Make or Break Years, and How Bad Are Bananas? The carbon footprint of everything. He is a professor at Lancaster University, where his research includes supply chain carbon modelling, sustainable food systems and the environmental impact of ICT. He has made numerous speaking, radio and television broadcast appearances to promote public awareness of sustainability and climate change issues.

Conversation summary

  • A situation of rising emissions despite businesses making efforts to reduce GHG.
  • The complexities of changing the food system, which involves over 600m smallholder farmers.
  • Dietary changes (reducing meat and diary) are key and easier to change than other solutions, but this needs to change faster.
  • What net zero  means, and how businesses tackle carbon reduction through scopes 1,2 and 3.
  • Defining carbon offsetting and discussion around its unhelpful nature.
  • Farmers experience of the brunt of climate change and what support is needed.
  • Consumers need support from big business, retailers and the government to make the change they want to.
  • Technology can help us with making good consumer choices.
  • Radical change is needed to meet the Paris Agreement targets.


The Paris Agreement

Carbon offsetting

Science Based Targets initiative on Net Zero

Episode transcript