The UK government has just withdrawn from a court case brought by a number of organisations in the food and drink industry, including Dash. They’ve promised to review their decision to abandon mandatory food waste reporting standards for UK companies.
Although this doesn’t mean the legislation is guaranteed to return, it’s a positive sign. A third of food produced around the world is thrown away, and in the UK alone nearly 10 million tonnes of perfectly good produce goes to waste each year. There is an environmental and moral imperative to hold businesses to account.
Yet the current government has made a habit of rolling back on commitments, from carbon emission targets to bans on multibuy offers on unhealthy food. And there are worrying conflicts of interest in cabinet. Health secretary Victoria Atkins’ partner is a boss at a sugar company, and Defra secretary Steve Barclay’s wife has a leading role at one of the water companies at the heart of the UK’s raw sewage dumping scandal.
Not an easy time to score a victory on environmental grounds, you’d think. So how have we ended up with this win? The answer lies in the power of mobilising a community. When the news first broke that food waste requirements were being abandoned, a group of us decided to take the fight to the government. Olio, Toast, Dash, the charity Feedback and others crowdfunded for legal proceedings.
Everyone got stuck in, from our own teams raising awareness on social media, to our customers and buyers lobbying on our behalf, to celebrities committing their time and energy. Even Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall got involved!
The government’s concession came while I was drafting this piece. The collective effort of a like-minded group now means there is new life in legislation to ensure further accountability for the way large companies reduce their food waste.
The lesson for brands is clear. If things are going sideways on the causes that are part of your DNA, you have to act. When progress risks being lost, look to your community. The people around you can help mobilise a movement to create lasting change, whatever your cause.
In this case, it’s a lovely early Christmas present for the country’s long-term environmental health.
That’s all from me until 2024 – see you then!