We will never achieve our goal to halve food waste until reporting is mandatory

Dave Lewis
Dave Lewis
Group CEO (2014-20)

Dave Lewis, CEO of Tesco and Chair of Champions 12.3

Every year, a third of the world’s food goes to waste. That’s more than a billion tonnes of food that never makes it onto anyone’s plates. It’s even more shocking when you consider that 1 in 9 people go to bed hungry every day

In a week when the spotlight is on climate change, it’s time we fully mobilised to act against one of the major contributors: food waste.

Some facts – food waste accounts for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions and if it were a country it would be the third largest emitter in the world after China and the US. In the UK, more than 10 million tonnes of food is wasted every year. In fact, an area almost the size of Wales is needed to grow the food and drink for our tables that is simply never eaten.

The environmental, business and moral case for tackling food waste is undeniable.

In the UK, over the last few years we’ve seen a step change in the number of food companies pledging to tackling food waste. However, without transparency, these efforts will not have the impact needed. Publishing food waste data is vital; without it, efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 - to halve food waste by 2030 - will be severely jeopardised. Without publication, we will never be able to judge whether real action is happening.

Food companies face the difficult task of matching supply and demand. As a retailer, we know it’s almost impossible to avoid having some surplus food or shortages at the end of the day. But it’s only by measuring and publishing the data, that you can identify a solution and hold yourself to account.

Recognising this, 38 Tesco suppliers will publish their progress in the fight against food waste, many for the second year in a row.

It’s a major step forward but now we need the rest of the industry to follow.

Champions 12.3 is a global coalition committed to delivering SDG 12.3. This week, it will publish its latest assessment of progress towards its goal of halving food waste by 2030. It will reveal that while two-thirds of the world’s 50 largest food companies have set targets to reduce food waste, only 30 percent are publicly reporting their progress. Similarly, in the UK, of the 156 companies signed up to the IGD roadmap - the UK specific commitment setting out the actions businesses will take to address their food waste – less than a third are publishing data.

At Tesco, we were the first retailer to publish food waste data for our UK operations in 2013 and this year, we have reported data for all the markets we operate in. Tesco Lotus and Malaysia have published data for the first this year, joining Tesco UK, Republic of Ireland and Central Europe. Seeing the figures in black and white was startling. But it focused our efforts on where we could make the biggest difference.

We set ourselves a target – no food safe for human consumption would go to waste in our stores. We knew we couldn’t make that happen alone, so we partnered with food redistribution charity FareShare and social enterprise FoodCloud to create Community Food Connection – a scheme that would allow colleagues in every one of our stores to offer our surplus food to local charities and community groups.

We’ve now donated 77 million meals since 2012 from our stores and distribution centres. We’re 80% of the way towards our target that no good food goes to waste and overall, we’ve reduced food safe for human consumption going to waste in our operations to 0.1% of sales. Today, we have announced a new partnership with Flamingo, a global supplier of fresh produce, that helps to redistribute food waste in Kenya. It means that surplus food from pack houses can be made into soup to feed 5,000 schoolchildren.

In addition to publishing our data, we have been working closely with suppliers to promote transparency across our supply chain. Today, 27 own brand suppliers, accounting for more than 50% of Tesco’s fresh food sales, published food waste data for the second year running and 11 branded suppliers have published their food waste data, nine for the first time.

In the last six years our suppliers have worked with us to look for new ways to use more of their crop – from selling ‘perfectly imperfect’ fruit and veg to helpful partnerships between suppliers. Branston, one of our potato suppliers, now sends 350 tonnes of misshapen potatoes to our ready meal supplier, Samworths.

We know that it can feel like a big step, but the results can be transformative. Publishing this information raises the bar on efficiency, innovation and accountability. And it is the only way to meaningfully drive change at the scale needed. That’s why I believe it must be mandatory.

The government is due to consult on this soon, but, as a responsible industry, we should not delay. Every second without action is wasting valuable time, valuable resources and wasting vast amounts of money. We must pick up the pace.

Without measuring the problem, you can’t hope to manage it. So, we urgently call on the government to introduce mandatory reporting. This will be good for business, great for the environment and essential to the UK being able to meet its promise to reduce food waste by halve by 2030.





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