Wrap, the food and drink industry’s key body fighting against packaging and food waste, has blamed savage government cuts after it said it was being forced to make around 15% of its staff redundant.
It also announced plans for “fundamental changes” to the organisation, which it hoped would be enough to ensure its financial stability, as it looks to drive sustainable production and consumption.
Wrap is to axe around 25 of its staff and said “successive cuts in government funding” had been at the heart of the decision, despite the government’s recent pledges on the environment and the 25-year war on plastic announced by Theresa May last week.
In October 2015 Wrap revealed its activities had helped lead to a fall in traditional grocery ingredient, product and packaging waste, of 80,000 tonnes against a 2012 baseline.
But the organisation has been rocked by cuts to its government funding base as well as uncertainty posed by Brexit.
Grant income from central government was reduced by nearly £5m a year in 2015/16 to £14.8m and, following the 2015 Spending Review, Defra funding was slashed to £12m for 2016/17 and has since fallen to around £9m-£10m per year.
Wrap has also seen overall funding from other governments fall, to £9.2m in 2015/16 compared with £13.2m in 2014/15, although in contrast to the deep cuts in Westminster it was boosted by a major grant from the Welsh Government’s Towards Zero Waste Strategy. Among other areas, the strategy prioritised a drive to increase recycling of plastic.
Wrap’s reduction in government funding has meant it has become increasingly reliant on funding from the food and drink industry, especially signatories to the Courtauld Commitment 2025 to slash food waste from farm to fork. However, it has struggled to attract sign-up from suppliers to the scheme.
Wrap said it needed to cut fixed costs to offset the significant drop in income it has faced since 2015.
“Subject to consultation with staff that is now under way, this is anticipated to lead regrettably to the loss of around 25 members of staff. We are in an environment where there is continued pressure on public spending, as well as ongoing economic uncertainty, and Wrap is not immune to that,” said CEO Marcus Gover.
“We have been able to achieve great results by combining our resources with others to achieve impact with less funding, and that approach will continue. But we have now reached a point where we also need to make significant cost savings.
“Sadly, we cannot achieve the scale of savings we need without losing staff. This has been a difficult decision and is always a last resort. I am determined that the process of redundancy will be as fair and as compassionate as possible.
“The redesign will enable Wrap to accelerate its transition to an organisation that catalyses change through partnership. We will need to focus on the areas where we can make the biggest impact. We will also need increased support, including financial, from existing and future business partners.
“There is still a lot of important work to be done and there is a great opportunity to capitalise on the gathering momentum to tackle issues like food waste, recycling and reducing the impact of plastics on the environment. Wrap will continue to play a leading role, working with governments, businesses and citizens, in achieving a world where resources are used sustainably.”