What makes a sustainability leader? Meet waste and resources champions Neighbourly

With the entry deadline for edie's 2022 Sustainability Leaders Awards less than a month away, this series showcases the achievements of previous winners and reveals their secrets to success. Up next: Winner of our Waste and Resource Management Project of the Year award, Neighbourly.

What makes a sustainability leader? Meet waste and resources champions Neighbourly

Ready to follow in Neighbourly's footsteps? Entries for the 2022 Awards close 1 October 2021

Neighbourly’s food surplus programme helps businesses reduce food and product waste by supporting thousands of small local charities. The business’ in-house redistribution platform has overseen the donation of 460 tonnes of surplus products and nearly 40 million meals worth of surplus food.

Developments over the past 12 months have been key to Neighbourly’s most successful partnerships with companies such as Aldi, Innocent and Penguin. Its surplus redistribution programme has a unique double-benefit for businesses, offering them a scalable solution to meet and exceed their sustainability objectives whilst making a measurable social impact.

In the UK, 1 in 3 children are living in poverty and an estimated 14 million people are suffering in impossible situations – forced to choose between paying bills and putting food on the table. At the same time, the UK wastes 9.5 million tonnes of food every year.

Neighbourly believes we should be respectful of the world’s resources by diverting as much as possible to feed and support people in need. In 2015, as part of its mission to help businesses deliver meaningful and sustainable community investment at scale, the organisation launched its food and product surplus programme. This was targeted at businesses that not only wanted to reduce their operational waste but wanted to also support and connect with their local communities. The Neighbourly platform was able to offer the advantage of a network of thousands of small charities and causes registered and looking for support from businesses.

Its first client partner on this programme was M&S, which was already connected to local communities through Neighbourly’s Employee Volunteering programme. After an initial trial, the company began the process of matching all M&S stores with nearby community groups, which were alerted through the Neighbourly platform when surplus food was available for collection. The programme has since evolved, rolling out to more than 500 M&S stores.

The programme has developed, with a number of technological advancements, and Neighbourly now partners with both Aldi and Lidl across their full store networks, as well as with Innocent, Penguin and Danone. Neighbourly partnered with Aldi in January 2019, beginning with a proof of concept at selected stores, prior to full rollout by August 2019.

Through the platform, the business sourced, vetted and linked multiple community organisations with each store for scheduled weekday collections. It was able to offer economies of scale on the process by having an existing network of more than 11,000 (now 15,000) vetted organisations. The result was a record-breaking five-month roll out of the programme across all Aldi stores.

For Innocent, the goal was to connect up its Avonmouth depot with community causes to re-distribute its surplus juices and smoothies. In 2018, Innocent was redistributing just 40% of surplus. With the help of the Neighbourly programme its goal was to hit 100% of surplus redistributed by 2021.

Neighbourly’s platform has allowed for stock allocation to the charities for collection within 1-4 days (previously 9 days), with a streamlined ordering process which has reduced administration time and cost and allowed for the maximum amount of available stock to be redistributed, with good shelf-life for the charities.

Through Neighbourly, these clients are able to track and report on what donations have been made, allowing them to demonstrate hitting positive sustainability targets over time.

Overall, the Neighbourly surplus programme has saved a total of nearly 40 million meals from going to waste, along with 460 tonnes of non-food products – from books to clothing and more. The surplus programme alone has allowed businesses to save a combined total of 60 kilotonnes of CO2 from these redistributed products.

In November 2020, Aldi was expected to hit a landmark 10 million meals donated through the Neighbourly surplus programme. In addition, the retailer has donated more than 140 tonnes of surplus products through the programme and is now connected with around 2,300 local good causes across the UK. Its impact is growing every day and there are huge savings on waste disposal.

Since partnering with Neighbourly on its surplus programme, Innocent has donated 751 tonnes of stock, equivalent to 186,526 cases of products that have been redistributed to organisations across the country. In the process, the smoothie maker has saved 2711 Tonnes of CO2 and was able to redistribute 99% of its surplus drinks in 2019, a reduction in waste of 85% in just one year. Innocent is now well on its way to achieving 100% of surplus redistributed through the Neighbourly surplus programme in 2021.

edie’s judges said: “Never has it been more important to find innovative ways to redistribute surplus food to those in need during Covid-19. Neighbourly’s Surplus Programme is a scalable and commercially viable approach to making this happen. That Neighbourly has saved 40 million meals from going to waste through this Programme is testament to the value of the approach.”

Are you our next winner?

After a tough and extraordinary year, edie’s RSA-accredited Sustainability Leaders Awards are back for 2022, bigger and better than ever – celebrating the incredible people, projects and partnerships that are accelerating climate action and transforming business, for good. 

Entries are now OPEN. The submission deadline for the 2022 Sustainability Leaders Awards is Friday 1 October 2021. The Awards is then set to take place as a live ceremony on the night of Wednesday 2 February 2022 at the Park Plaza London, Westminster. 

Our ‘Sustainability Leader of the Year’ category is among the 23 categories to choose from. Make sure you get the recognition you, and your team, deserve. ENTER THE SUSTAINABILITY LEADERS AWARDS 2022 HERE.

edie staff 

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