Tesco pulls forward target to halve food waste

Tesco has been reporting food waste data since 2013 and was the first UK supermarket to do so

The supermarket first set the target five years ago, in alignment with target 12.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs). It set a baseline year of the 2016/17 financial year.

By the end of the 2021/22 financial year, the business had delivered a 45% reduction in operational food waste against this baseline. Given that it was, therefore, on track to exceed the 2030 target, it has pulled the deadline forward to 2025.

Actions which Tesco has already taken to reduce food waste in its operations have included forging partnerships with FareShare and OLIO to divert surplus food to communities; diverting surplus food not fit for human consumption to suppliers that can use it for animal feed; stocking ‘wonky’ produce to help reduce waste on farms and allowing store staff to take home foods approaching their use-by dates for free.

Tesco has also moved this week to link executive pay to the delivery of the accelerated target. It had already linked a quarter of the Performance Share Plan awards Executive Directors receive to progress on other key environmental and social targets, including those on emissions and on gender and ethnicity representation. Now, food waste will be added.

Tesco Group’s chief executive Ken Murphy said he hopes that the changes will “drive further transformative change”.

He also called on other businesses to follow suit, and for policymaking to raise the bar across the UK’s grocery sector. Murphy said: “The work we and our suppliers do won’t tackle the issue alone. We have long called for Government to introduce mandatory food waste reporting to help measure and judge if real action is happening. Action must be taken across the whole industry.”

Tesco is notably working with Defra on its ‘Step Up To The Plate’ pledge, which helps businesses and individuals align with SDG 12.3 and provides a platform for Ministers to receive recommendations for targeted policy support.

The pledge requires corporate signatories to adopt WRAP’s food waste reduction roadmap. The framework, built in partnership with charity IGD, sets out how organisations can measure and act on wastage levels across a “farm-to-fork” approach.

But, as Murphy said, the business wants the UK Government to go further and mandate that supermarkets publicly publish their food waste data in a uniform fashion.

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