UK business giants mitigate 53,000 tonnes of food waste

WRAP has today (24 September) revealed that 121 of the UK's biggest food businesses are now providing evidence of their efforts to halve food waste by 2030, in line with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

UK business giants mitigate 53,000 tonnes of food waste

Businesses disclosing data to WRAP have

Posting the first annual update on its Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, the body revealed that 156 businesses from the food manufacture, retail, hospitality and service sub-sectors have given their support to the initiative.

Within this group of businesses, 117 operate within production and manufacturing; 24 operate within hospitality and foodservice and 15 are grocery retailers.

Of these firms, 121 have provided evidence to WRAP outlining how they are meeting the Framework’s overarching target of halving wastage across a “farm-to-fork” scope.

Businesses in this coalition recorded a collective annual turnover of £220bn in 2018 – more than half of the turnover recorded across the UK’s national food sector. They also generated around 1.1 million tonnes of food waste in their own operations last year, which WRAP claims is equivalent to one-third of the UK’s total post-farm gate supply chain food waste.

In addition to supporters from the business space, the roadmap, which was co-created by WRAP and IGD, has received the support of 29 other organisations such as redistribution programmes and trade bodies.

WRAP estimates that Roadmap signatories have collectively mitigated the wastage of 53,000 tonnes of food, valued at £85m, over the past 12 months.

Moving forward, the body is now aiming for “all major UK food businesses” to commit to act in line with the Roadmap – and to provide evidence they are doing so – by the end of 2026.

WRAP’s chief executive Marcus Gover said he was “delighted at the huge progress” made during the Roadmap’s first year, but added that there is “much more to do” on the food waste issue.

“Businesses that are implementing Target, Measure, Act are already reaping the benefits; those publicly reporting comparable data show an average 7% reduction, and a combined saving of around 53,000 tonnes of food valued at over £85m,” Gover said.

“Working together with Courtauld 2025, the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap is putting the UK on a path to achieving SDG target 12.3.”

Call to action 

One of the Roadmap’s founding signatories, Tesco, has used the findings of the report to call for the introduction of national regulation which would make it mandatory for large businesses to publish their food waste data. 

Tackling food waste has formed a key part of Tesco’s sustainability strategy since 2009, when it made a commitment to stop sending food products to landfill.

In 2013, it became the first UK supermarket to publicly publish its food waste data and, since then, it has been urging other corporates to follow suit on a voluntary basis

Now, in light of WRI research suggesting that the UK will miss its food-waste-related SDG contributions unless this disclosure is mandated by law, Tesco is using its voice once again. 

“A lot of food companies have pledged to tackle food waste, but without transparency will not be able to judge if they are delivering on their commitment,” Tesco’s chief executive Dave Lewis said. 

“Publishing food waste data is vital and must be mandatory if the UK is to achieve SDG 12.3. The Government has indicated it will introduce mandatory reporting and we call on [it] to do this urgently.”

Hungry for change

The UK’s annual food waste output in 2017 stood at 10.2 million tonnes, according to WRAP. Supply chain waste and consumer waste are notably the two largest contributors to the UK’s food waste mountain, accounting for 2.85 million tonnes and 7.1 million tonnes each year respectively.  

To that end, WRAP’s Roadmap is one of several initiatives encouraging collective action from businesses and individuals.

Earlier this year, for example, the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) launched a new scheme enabling food firms and members of the UK public to commit to align their food waste outputs with SDG target 12.3, called ‘Step Up to the Plate’. The programme is being spearheaded by Defra’s food waste ‘champion’ Ben Elliot and has received support from the likes of Nestlé, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose & Partners and Costa.

Following a positive early reaction from businesses, Elliot is now urging more individuals to get on board with the scheme, ahead of the Government’s proposed introduction of weekly food waste collections for every household in England.

Sarah George

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