Food and retail giants to collaborate on government-backed scheme to reduce food waste

Some of the UK's largest retailers and food manufacturers, including Unilever, M&S, Nestlé and Amazon are collaborating to deliver a new network of "food waste champions" to help reduce the amount of food waste produced by the sectors.

Food and retail giants to collaborate on government-backed scheme to reduce food waste

The network will be overseen by the Company Shop Group

The network of food waste champions will work within their organisations to cut back on the 1.1 billion tonnes of food waste that is produced across the food and drink retail and manufacturing sectors.

Businesses involved in the network include Bakkavor, Greencore, Mars, Nestle, Nomad Foods, Premier Foods, Samworth Brothers, Unilever and Upfield and Coca-Cola. The initiative has been backed by Government Food Waste Champion Ben Elliot and industry groups including WRAP and the British Retail Consortium.

WRAP’s chief executive Marcus Gover said: “The Luminary Programme has the potential to deliver long lasting behaviour change through encouraging more businesses and more sites to focus on the root causes of food surplus and waste. Company Shop is a Courtauld 2025 signatory and supporter of the UK Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, and this is exactly the kind of innovative thinking and action that will help us collectively achieve our goal to halve food waste in the UK.”

The network will be overseen by the Company Shop Group, the UK’s largest redistributor of surplus stock, which will deliver a mentoring programme for the food champions. Funding will be provided by Defra.

Food waste champions will receive access to toolkits, activities and mentoring to tackle food waste within their internal organisation. In light of the current coronavirus pandemic, most of the training will be delivered online, using downloadable resources and activities.

WRAP notes that 711 businesses are disclosing food waste data. Of the members, 45 businesses have publicly reported on food waste in 2019 and provided historical data for comparison. An average year-on-year reduction of 17% was recorded and, according to WRAP, this is equivalent to £300m worth of food being diverted from waste.

While these achievements are promising – and food waste from all sources has decreased in recent years – a further 1.8 million tonnes of food waste will need to be prevented by 2030 if the UK is to align with SDG 12.3. WRAP believes that if 400 more businesses commit to the roadmap, this figure can be achieved.

However, around £2bn of edible food waste occurred across the retail and manufacturing sectors in 2018, and the businesses involved in the new commitment will aim to work towards Defra’s target of halving food waste by 2030.

Andy Griffiths, Head of Value Chain Sustainability, Nestlé UK commented: “As the impacts of Covid 19 are felt across the country, more and more families are struggling with access to affordable, nutritious food. To help deliver sustainable solutions to this challenge, it is crucial that organisations find ever more effective ways to collaborate.

“The Luminary Programme is a trailblazing example of bringing together future leaders across the food sector, to increase the understanding of these challenges and help identify and leverage new opportunities in this space.”

Matt Mace

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