Today is a potentially pivotal moment in the battle against food waste and a huge victory for The Grocer’s Waste Not Want Not Campaign.
New York is a long way from Crawley, where we thought long and hard about our aims before launching our campaign in May 2016. But the announcements at today’s Champions 12.3 event across the Atlantic, chaired by Tesco’s Dave Lewis, mean that two of our key campaign goals have been achieved.
Waste Not Want Not called on retailers to be more transparent and follow Tesco’s lead in publishing their food waste figures. It also called for “co-ordinated action across the industry uniting both retailers and manufacturers” to tackle the unforgivable food waste mountain.
Even some of the industry’s harshest critics today acknowledge that the announcement by Wrap and the IGD of the new Food Waste Reduction Roadmap tackles both these issues – and does so with a transparency in stark contrast to the secrecy and downright ducking of the food waste issue which was sadly so prevalent back in 2016.
Not only have all the other supermarkets now agreed to publish their figures, but nearly 100 companies will by this time next year begin a regular process of reporting their contribution to the UK’s food waste, with all other top 250 companies set to do so by 2026.
Just as crucially, retailers and suppliers have agreed to a system of universal measurement, after years of wrangling and reluctance to stick their heads above the parapet.
This feels like a turning point. Suppliers and retailers have put politics and infighting aside to agree on the approach of “Target, Measure, Act”.
Companies have, as Lewis puts it in his exclusive Saturday Essay for The Grocer today, started to “take the plunge”.
Another mark of significance in today’s moves sees the companies agreeing to tougher targets to tackle food waste than those previously signed up to in the UK.
The UN sustainable development goal of slashing food waste across UK operations by 50% by 2030 is considerably more stretching than the Courtauld 2025 Agreement, under which companies vowed to slash food waste by 20% by 2025.
Of course the biggest challenge is still to come, and that is the “act” part.
Whilst in the battle for transparency it is good to see 27 of Tesco’s major own-label suppliers reporting their figures for the first time today, and another 10 major branded suppliers including the likes of Mars, Unilever and General Mills agreeing to do so next year, the figures themselves are still disturbing.
Combined, the suppliers wasted a shocking 654,809 tonnes of food in 2017/18, with the percentage of food in their production wasted ranging from 0% to 14% - a truly staggering amount.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Last year an initial report by Wrap suggested the level of food waste even before it reaches the farm gate could come to a staggering 2.5 million tonnes a year.
That is why it’s so good to see today’s announcement focusing on the whole supply chain, from farm to fork. And why it’s so important that the huge shift in favour of measurement and openness about the issue results in the sort of co-ordinated action which really does make the UK the world leader in tackling the food waste scandal.