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Evening Standard Publishes Food Waste Investigation

19/09/2016

Supermarkets are under pressure to accelerate action to prevent good food going to waste as the Evening Standard launches a major investigation into food waste this week.

Sainsbury’s is the second British supermarket to publish data on the amount of food it wastes in its stores, reporting to waste 35,832 tonnes per year. Last year Tesco published its in-store data after years of campaigning pressure from Feedback, and recently CEO David Lewis called on other retailers to follow their lead.

Feedback expose food waste in supermarket bins with the Evening Standard.

Feedback expose food waste in supermarket bins with the Evening Standard.

Feedback are pleased to see that Sainsbury’s has published its food waste data for the first time today but there’s still much work to be done. Firstly, Sainsbury’s have only published data on the amount of food waste generated in their stores. Whilst this is an important first step for retailers to manage and reduce their food waste, it does not include the much more significant amount of food waste generated in the retailer’s supply chain caused by cosmetic specifications, last minute order cancellations and unpredictable forecasting. Secondly,Sainsbury’s food waste data has not been audited by a third party, unlike its rival Tesco, putting the validity of this data in question.

Edd Colbert, Campaign and Research Manager at Feedback, says “Supermarkets are beginning to feel the pressure of the global food waste movement and have no option but to change their behaviour. The first dominos have fallen with Tesco and Sainsbury’s announcements and over the next year Feedback will be monitoring each of the supermarkets closely to ensure they go beyond ambitious gestures and commit to effective long term actions to prevent food waste.”

Feedback are calling on all UK supermarkets to come clean and publicly report on how much food they waste in their operations and throughout their supply chains. These businesses already have much of this data available as they collectively report on food waste through the Courtauld Commitment, a voluntary industry initiative. This was confirmed today by an anonymous employee from one of big six in the Evening Standard:

“The truth is that every store of every retailer measures their food waste very, very accurately because metrics drives our business. If they tell you otherwise they are being less than honest.”

The Standard’s investigation has largely focused on the amount of surplus food redistributed by each of the major retailers. Sainsbury’s is reported to lead the way with 7.6% of its surplus food actually being redistributed at present whilst Tesco comes second with 4.5%. The rest of the retailers fall even shorter with scores of 3.3% or less. Morrison’s and Lidl have not disclosed any information on how much food they redistribute. This is of particular concern, as Morrison’s declared almost a year ago that it planned to redistribute all of its surplus food after Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s BBC series Hugh’s War On Waste.

Whilst a great deal of attention is being given to redistribution initiatives, it is important to highlight that the amount of food waste generated within supermarket stores is miniscule compared to that which arises in the supply chain. If supermarkets are really serious about putting an end to waste they have to start taking responsibility for the waste they cause upstream by relaxing unnecessary cosmetic specifications, improving forecast accuracy, and putting an end to unfair trading practices.

Have you read the Evening Standard’s food waste story? Do you want to join the movement and help stop good food going to waste? Then sign the food waste pledge here to find how you can get involved.