Speaking at a recent Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum Keynote Seminar in London, Stuart Lendrum, who heads up the retailer’s ethical and sustainable sourcing policy, said that the issue of food waste had to be pushed further up the value chain if strategies in this area were to be successful.

“It’s about working with suppliers, customers, colleagues, to really rethink waste,” he told delegates. “If we have food waste that is still edible, how do we make sure that it isn’t going through to be processed to anaerobic digestion, that it’s going to food donation and staying as high up the value chain?”

He said that the most efficient supply chains tended to be the most sustainable, and that food waste – in terms of prevention – offered a perfect context in which to frame this for suppliers.

Adhering to the waste hierarchy, where prevention is the priority, is now central to Sainsbury’s strategy as this has the most potential to deliver significant gains in carbon conservation.

Lendrum said the company was “really trying to unpick waste through the supply chain from all the way back to farm level” and focusing supplier efforts to identify resource hotspots so that they could be tackled.

One area Sainsbury’s is focusing intently on to help address these issues is packaging innovation. It is actively looking at how it can utilise technologies from other industries to drive this forward.

“The issue of packaging is still there with customers … it may not have as strongly negative connotations as it previously once had … but ultimately getting people to understand and use packaging properly and recycle it properly is critical,” Lendrum maintained.

He also pointed to the fact that new EU legislation around packaging and food labelling would present a huge regulatory burden over the next three years, and that complying with such policy while still making it intuitive enough for customers in order to help them waste less food was a big challenge.

Maxine Perella

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