Supermarkets take shared responsibility for food waste crackdown
The UK's three largest supermarket chains and the trade body which represents them have unanimously agreed that more collaboration is needed to redistribute more surplus food to charities.
Representatives from Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) gathered around the same table at a food surplus event in London earlier this week; concluding that they should “leave our corporate colours at the door” in a bid to tackle the issue.
“It doesn’t matter if we’re green, orange or blue – this is a coming together for the greater good,” said Asda’s senior director for supply chain services Matt Wood.
Annual figures from WRAP show that, in total, 15 million tonnes of food are discarded each year in the UK. Combined figures from the BRC revealed that the nation’s seven major supermarkets contributed to just 1.3% of this figure, but the organisation’s environment policy advisor Alice Ellison believes the onus falls on the sector to work outside of its own operations; with supplier and consumers.
“It’s all about collaboration – both within the industry and throughout the supply chain,” said Ellison. “Resources also need to be directed towards working in partnership with consumers.”
The food surplus summit was held by Fareshare – one of the charity organisations that receives surplus food from retailers.
Paul Crewe, head of sustainability at Sainsbury’s – which has worked with FareShare for 18 years – said: “The best commercial decision I can make with a waste product that I cannot sell is to donate to the charity - I want to dispel any myth that it is more cost-effective for me to put it into anaerobic digestion than it is to partner with a charity, because it’s not.
“The best option is to partner with as many charities as we can across the UK to handle the surplus and unsold food.”
The largest of the supermarkets, Tesco, has only recently partnered with Fareshare. As part of this new partnership, the firm – which threw away 55,400 tonnes of food from its stores in the past year – has also launched an app which alerts charities to the amount of surplus food they have at the end of each day.
Tesco’s commercial director for fresh food Matt Simister said he was just as keen to work with his corporate rivals to develop more data sharing and technology solutions in the future.
“We’re only going to make a big difference is everybody makes a difference,” Simister said. “This isn’t about somebody trying to protect an innovation from somebody else.
“In fact, in all the discussions we have with stakeholders, we positively encourage everybody else to do the same thin - whether it’s sharing data or using technology. That’s the only way we can call make a difference.
“We’re all quite good at what we do, but we’ve still got lots of waste in our system. So there are massive opportunities for us all to do more.”
At the summit, FareShare launched its new FareShare Food Efficiency Framework which is designed to help businesses with the processes to ensure that surplus food can be made available to charities for redistribution.
The framework comprises three main areas: prepare; share; and benefit. It builds on ‘existing best practice within the UK and globally’ to help businesses prepare and plan for potential food surpluses arising during operations, so that any surplus food can be made available for charity redistribution.
FareShare recently reported that donations totalled 7,360 tonnes over the past year - a 33% increase on the previous year’s figures.