Food Waste Reduction Roadmap marks year of business achievement

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WRAP and IGD have today published the Annual Progress Report for the UK’s Food Waste Reduction Roadmap. A world-first initiative launched in September 2018, the Roadmap outlines the route the UK food industry should follow to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 and halve food loss and waste by 2030.

More than 200 of the UK’s large food businesses, with around 60% of UK food industry turnover, have reported on their actions to prevent food from entering the waste stream. Those businesses with year-on-year data have achieved an impressive 17% average reduction in food waste.

The Roadmap calls on businesses to implement a Target, Measure, Act strategy – adopting SDG 12.3 or setting a target which contributes to the achievement of SDG 12.3 and the Courtauld Commitment. Businesses commit to measure food surplus and waste in a consistent way, share what they’ve learnt and act to reduce their own food waste, and that of their suppliers and customers.

This contributes to international efforts reported today in the SDG Target 12.3 on Food Loss and Waste: 2021 Progress Report, by the international Champions 12.3 group.

The Champions 12.3 report describes the world as being ‘woefully behind’ where it needs to be if it is to halve food loss and waste by 2030. The UK has been tackling this issue since 2007 and is over half way towards SDG 12.3. Today’s report highlights key progress across the UK supply chain, from farm to fork.

Against the backdrop of COVID-19 and other disruptions to businesses, progress continues to be made:

  • 267 businesses and 47 supporting organisations have now signed up to the Roadmap; an increase of 25% in committed businesses versus September 2020.
  • Businesses implementing Target, Measure, Act increased by 36 to 207, which represents more than 85% of large businesses committed to the Roadmap – the equivalent of approximately a third of all large food businesses in the UK.
  • Retailers, producers and manufacturers providing multi-year data reduced food waste by 17% compared to their baselines (with a 13-15% reduction in waste per tonne of food handled, showing how these businesses are becoming more efficient).
  • These businesses were between them responsible for 251,000 tonnes of food waste reduction, which prevented the waste of £365 million of food, and potentially the production of over 670,000 tonnes of GHG emissions.
  • Roadmap businesses generated 90% of the increase in UK food redistribution between 2018 and 2020, saving 26,000 tonnes more food in 2020. This food had a value of over £50 million and would have provided the equivalent of over 60 million meals

David Moon, director of collaboration and change at WRAP, said: “The high financial value of food saved by Roadmap businesses illustrates the importance of measuring and managing food that gets wasted. Given current commercial pressures on food businesses, this should be on the agenda for every CEO and Finance Director. Governments have said they will consult on making the reporting of food waste mandatory; I would encourage businesses to get ahead of policy and reap the rewards of adopting good practice. Moreover, this is a practical and cost saving way of contributing to corporate targets for reducing whole chain GHG emissions.”

Susan Barratt, CEO of IGD, said: “Against a hugely challenging backdrop, the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap has continued to make significant progress in 2021, demonstrating the enormous appetite our industry has to drive positive change and be a force for good.

“As well as the environmental and social imperative for businesses to reduce their food waste, there’s also a compelling business case. Driving efficient supply chains and reducing waste should be a priority for businesses; it makes financial sense, helps communities, and is a key way businesses can deliver Net Zero climate targets.

“At IGD, we have an ambition to accelerate progress towards a sustainable food system; with COP26 just weeks away, now more than ever it is crucial we continue mobilising the food and consumer goods industry to tackle climate change and reduce food waste.”

Resources and Waste Minister, Jo Churchill said: “Food waste is one of our biggest environmental challenges and the UK is leading the global effort to reduce it by 50 per cent by 2030.

“I am pleased to see the Roadmap is having such a significant impact on food waste reduction and I applaud those businesses taking strong action to tackle this key issue.

“It’s vital that we go further, which is why we are committed to consulting on mandatory food waste reporting for businesses. By working together with businesses we can make our food industry more sustainable, and measuring and reporting is the first crucial step.”

Ben Elliot, Government Food Waste and Surplus Champion, said: “Forty per cent of all UK large food businesses are signed up to the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap and are making excellent progress – but we need to see more joining the fight.

“I want to see businesses large and small getting involved to Target, Measure and Act on their waste. Only then can we stop the needless waste of resources that happens through good food being thrown away.”

We won’t fix climate change unless we fix the food system

With only weeks until global leaders meet for COP26, now is the time to bring the issue of food waste to world attention. WRAP and IGD are calling for greater focus over five key areas:

  • More businesses to get involved in Whole Chain Plans (toolkit available here).
  • More businesses to publicly report their food surplus and waste data in a manner compliant with the Roadmap.
  • Greater efforts to quantify and reduce food surplus and waste on farm.
  • Deeper engagement with the hospitality and food service sector to gain better quality food waste data – enabling progress to be monitored for businesses and the sector.
  • Roadmap supporters to support and promote  Love Food Hate Waste and the Food Waste Action Week 2022 (March 7th – 13th ) by engaging their customers and staff.

 Progress highlights

Whole Chain Projects

  • Whole Chain Projects, (a Roadmap programme which involves businesses working together across the supply chain, from farm to fork, to identify ways to reduce food waste at each stage) have been spotlighted as a key focus for the Roadmap.
  • Three Whole Chain Projects have now been completed by Sainsburys, Waitrose and Abel&Cole. Working with their suppliers they have identified opportunities to reduce waste by reviewing varieties and product specifications at the primary stage, increasing the amount of surplus food that can be redistributed to charities and supporting consumers to reduce their waste in the home with better labelling and storage instructions. The three project case studies can be read here. Another seven Whole Chain Projects are in progress.

Retail progress

Since the Roadmap’s launch, it has been supported by all the major grocery retailers, and all are implementing Target, Measure, Act.

  • Food waste levels from the 10 retailers publicly reporting their data has reduced by around 35,000 tonnes per year, a decrease of 15%.
  • This equates to almost £110 million worth of food per year not ending up as waste – the production of which would have been associated with 105,000 tonnes of GHG emissions.

 Nadiya Catel-Arutyunova, sustainability policy advisor at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retailers are redesigning products, packaging and labels to help people use and store food in ways which help customers reduce their waste whilst also cutting food waste in stores. As retailers forge a sustainable future, it’s great to know their efforts and progress are being recognised, particularly in reducing UK food waste and associated greenhouse gas emissions. Redistribution of surplus food has been a relentless focus for retailers – one that accelerated enormously during the pandemic. Our members have been working closer than ever with redistribution organisations and charities across the UK to ensure that any useable surplus food goes to the people who need it most.”

Production and Manufacture progress

The number of producers and manufacturers committing to the Roadmap has more than quadrupled since launch, from 47 to 209.  Almost 90% have provided evidence of implementing Target, Measure, Act.

  • Over 130 producers and manufacturers shared data for more than one year, and overall their food waste has reduced by 18% compared to their baselines.
  • This amounts to an annual reduction in food waste levels of 217,000 tonnes, which equates to around £260 million per year of food– the production of which would have been associated with 565,000 tonnes of GHG emissions.
  • It should be noted that whilst 60% of the businesses reporting multi-year data have delivered reductions in food waste, almost 40% saw food waste levels increase compared to their baselines. For the vast majority of the latter, the increases were seen in 2020 compared to 2019, which is likely at least in part to be explained by disruption related to the Covid-19 pandemic and other factors.

The FDF’s Senior Environment Policy Manager, David Bellamy, said: “FDF has been a long supportive partner of WRAP’s UK Food Waste Reduction Roadmap since it was launched in 2018. It is therefore pleasing to see that the number of manufacturing and producer businesses committed to the Roadmap continues to grow and that overall levels of food waste continue to fall among those implementing ’target, measure, act’ despite the difficult year industry faced in 2020.  During the Covid-19 pandemic FDF members have also made great progress in their commitment to supporting food redistribution efforts, as shown through the FDF’s #HiddenHeroes campaign. “In February 2021, and as part of a mid-term review of our flagship sustainability commitment known as Ambition 2025, FDF published an updated set of commitments around reducing food waste across members’ own direct operations and their supply chains aligned with the UK Food Waste Reduction Roadmap and the UN SDG 12.3 food waste reduction target.”

Primary Production progress

Food surplus and waste at primary production remains a key element of the Roadmap with the onus being placed on data collection and measurement. WRAP estimates that around 50 farm businesses have undertaken measurements to date, with most of those in the last two years. Through pilot projects with industry, WRAP now has a practical model for how farmers and growers can be supported to measure on-farm food surplus and waste – exemplified in a video case study with Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I and their Ribena growers.

Hospitality & Food Service progress

29 hospitality and food service businesses are implementing Target, Measure, Act but there is not yet sufficient robust and comparable data to allow changes over time to be assessed. Keeping track of food waste and reducing it to save costs is even more critical in the current environment. After a successful pilot phase (with reductions in food waste of between 23% to 38% recorded), the virtual learning module ‘Guardians of Grub: Becoming a Champion’ has been further improved (and streamlined), and is currently upskilling its second cohort of trainees, with recruitment open for the third cohort in January 2022.

WRAP has also worked with the World Resources Institute to create a global Food loss and waste data capture sheet which supports the principles to Target, Measure and Act on food waste in support of UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, and complies with the international Food Loss & Waste Standard. The Consumer Goods Forum commends this development as an important step in reducing the reporting process for the industry.