Food and drink's nobility and stoicism undermined by politics

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Donald Trump

In a stunning victory for The Grocer’s Waste Not Want Not campaign, this week signatories to the Courtauld Commitment 2025 made a new pledge - to double food redistribution to 30,000 meals by 2020. It’s been hailed as a tipping point in the war on food waste, and shows our industry at its very best: food and drink companies coming together and committing to tackle one of our society’s most pressing issues. Not because they are set to reap quick financial rewards (as some cynics like to suggest whenever this sector does something positive), but because it is the right thing to do.

Nor is this the only brave and exciting waste development announced this week. Unilever’s pledge to make all its plastic reusable, recyclable or compostable may have some element of self-interest to it as it has repeatedly demonstrated the value in its cause-related marketing approach. But the commitment will cost millions and no-one is forcing Unilever into it. This is a voluntary target that will require significant technological breakthroughs. Ones it is willing to share with the whole industry for the betterment of the planet.

These moves compare starkly - and chillingly - with the ruthless self-interest at the heart of President Trump’s agenda. Putting a climate change denier in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump appears hell bent on competing with China and Russia as to which country is the most noxious. It makes the prospect of striking a trade deal with the US on food a lot less appetising.

Nor is the tone struck by the UK’s politicians in its Brexit negotiations much better. As the PM set out her stall for Brexit, we have cheap puns, Nazi slurs and aggressive ‘no deal’ threats to our closest trading partners, while hailing tinpot deals as the answer to all our prayers. This is not how a sustainable economic and societal future is built. And the fear is that while the industry responds with stoicism, dignity and intelligence to the conditions in which it will have to operate, we are caught up in a tawdry, unedifying and damaging scrap.

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