The Global Food Security, published by the International Development Select Committee, recommends a range of measures to address the issue including the promotion of meat as an occasional food and support for non-food-based biofuels. On food waste specifically, it calls for a renewed government push including consumer campaigns and lending support to redistribution schemes like FareShare. The grocery sector should be particularly aware of the recommendation that government devise targets for food waste reduction and sanction companies that fail to meet them.
According to research from the Waste and Resources Action Programme, better known as WRAP, the costs associated with food waste amount to £17 billion per year, £5 billion of which is generated in supply chains. Not only that, but 7 billion tonnes of food is thrown away each year, 60% of which WRAP says could have been eaten. And of course, all this waste comes with additional GHG emissions and the unnecessary use of increasingly scarce water resources. Any 21st century company worth its share price should be improving resource efficiency, reducing environmental impacts and making cost savings: tackling food waste offers the chance to achieve all three and stave off potential government regulation.
When a CSR issue hits the headlines, there is often a lot of NGO and civil society opprobrium but no clear pathway for responsible companies seeking solutions. But in this instance, there is already comprehensive support and guidance: the government-backed Courtauld Commitment provides the research, resources and remedies that UK-based grocery businesses need in order to take effective action.
Phase 3 of the voluntary Commitment was announced last month and will run until 2015. It aims to provide a cumulative reduction of 1.1 million tonnes of waste, translating into savings of 2.9 million tonnes of CO2 and £1.6 billion for consumers, the food and drink sector, and local authorities. Continuing the Commitment’s focus on optimising the recycled content and recyclability of packaging, this Phase also includes a target to reduce household waste by 5% over the next three years against a 2012 baseline.
Case studies from Phase 2 of the Commitment demonstrate a range of methods companies have used to address this, such as Heinz’s new resealable ‘fridge packs’ of beans and Warburtons’ removal of ‘display until’ dates that had been confusing consumers. Donating unsold food also features: Premier Foods diverted over 1,000 tonnes of food from landfill, saving 24 tonnes of methane emissions in the process. As highlighted in the select committee report, awareness-raising campaigns are another great tool to cut down post-sale waste. The Cooperative has supported WRAP’s ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ campaign by running adverts in their shops, and Morrisons has created its own ‘Great Taste Less Waste’ project. Some companies have come up with more unique strategies: Molson Coors Brewing Company, best known for its Cobra beer, discovered that online searches for curry peak on Boxing Day and responded by launching an ‘Ultimate Boxing Day Leftovers’ recipe menu aimed at spicing up tired Brussels sprouts and creating Christmas pud naans.
With approximately 60% of household food waste caused by products that are ‘not used in time’, amounting to around £6.7 billion in value, the good practice guidance and support of the Courtauld Commitment is an invaluable tool for companies ready to lighten the load of our rubbish bags.
Emily Kenway works in the third sector promoting responsible practices by companies and investors. Prior to 2011, Emily was a professional opera singer before following her passion for sustainability into this new career. Her particular interests include the circular economy, environmental impacts, and the food industry.