Tesco CEO and head of the coalition Champions 12.3, Dave Lewis, has set out the business case for tackling food waste claiming it’s time to put the topic “on the boardroom agenda” so company bosses realise the return on investment fighting the problem can bring.
Writing for the supermarket’s blog, Lewis talks about food waste at a time when Champions 12.3 – a group of public and private sector leaders who have pledged to help halve global food waste per capita by 2030 in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals – publishes a new report.
The findings are based on analysis of 1,200 business sites across 700 companies in 17 countries and include the manufacturing, retail, hospitality and foodservice industries. Results show business that make an investment in cutting food waste, can get a positive return on investment in return – for every £1 invested in reducing food waste, half the business sites had at least a £14 return.
“In other words, reducing waste offers real business opportunities. So we need to put food waste on the boardroom agenda,” writes Lewis.
“CEOs rely on hard numbers. Until now, there hasn’t been a clear set of data and financial analysis that business leaders can point to on food waste. Our ambition with this report is to change that and make sure food waste gets the focus from business that it deserves.
“But this is also about courage. We need businesses to show leadership and face the scale of the issue. That is why as Champions 12.3 we are calling on businesses to do three things.”
Firstly, the report calls on companies to stretch targets to halve per capita food waste by 2030 at retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains. Tesco’s goal is to have zero food waste (on food fit for human consumption) by the end of this year.
The second point is about transparency, says Lewis.
“Tesco took the step of publishing its UK food waste data. The numbers reveal that less than 1pc of our food is wasted. This probably makes us one of the most efficient retailers in the world. But in a business that serves around 50 million customers a week, that still adds up to around 60,000 tonnes every year – around 30,000 of which are safe to eat.
“Over the last few months, more retailers have signed up for transparency. I would like to pay credit to Mike Coupe and Sainsbury’s for publishing their waste figures for the first time last year. The next step is for all UK retailers and more food businesses to share their data – from members of the IGD through to the Food and Drink Federation.
“To do this, we need a clear, consistent measurement methodology. Last year the Champions 12.3 helped to establish this through the Food Loss and Waste Protocol. Four years ago, Tesco set out our own methodology but we did this in isolation. So we have engaged the food industry and industry bodies to work together on a common framework that is in line with the protocol,” he adds.
Thirdly, innovation is key to tackling food waste, according to Lewis.
While developing countries can look at reducing food losses during production, handling and storage is critical, while in developed countries and urban areas, preventing waste within retail, the home and restaurants can have the biggest impact, he says.
“In our case at Tesco, a key innovation has been developing a new partnership with the food charity FareShare and the social enterprise FoodCloud. It is designed to make sure that any surplus food that’s safe to eat from our stores is shared with food charities each evening.
“We’ve already rolled the partnership out to over 1,100 stores and it will be in all stores by the end of the year. This last year we have estimated we have donated over 5,000 tonnes of edible food.
“No matter what business we work in, the key thing is to see the scale of the challenge and take action. This report shows there’s no longer any social, environmental or economic reason not to act. Even if the moral imperative doesn’t move us, the clear business case for reducing food waste should persuade every CEO.”