Resource Use

Courtauld 2025 annual review details first year waste successes

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has today (6 December) released its first annual review for the Courtauld Commitment 2025, taking a look at what the voluntary programme has achieved in its first year of action, including gaining another 24 signatories committed to reducing food waste throughout the supply chain.

Launched in 2016, Courtauld 2025 is an agreement for the UK food and drinks industry aiming for a 20 per cent reduction in food and drink waste over ten years, which WRAP hopes will lead to savings of around £20 billion.

The biggest announcement from the review is the number of new signatories added to the commitment over the past 12 months. Since September 2016, 24 more organisations across the food and drink supply chain have put their names to the voluntary agreement, including Hovis, the ABP Food Group, the Federation of Bakers, the Welsh Local Government Association and the Industry Council for research on Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN).

Courtauld 2025 annual review details first year waste successes

This raises the total number of signatories to 156, including 77 sector and trade organisations, 33 local authorities and 46 businesses representing 95 per cent of the UK food retail market, according to WRAP.

Signatories report figures for their food and drink waste, as well as the steps they are taking to improve resource efficiency across the supply chain, although this data is anonymised. Earlier this year the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) recommended that businesses be forced to reveal their food waste data, but the government responded reiterating its support for the voluntary Courtauld Commitment, arguing that anonymous data will help to better encourage collective action.

‘Sector-wide collaboration’

At this stage no tangible statistics have been released on progress towards the Courtauld 2025 goals; the first report will be published at the end of 2018, with more results to follow in 2021. Today’s review details how WRAP has been building foundations for the future, with a focus on collaborative actions between signatories.

Steve Creed, WRAP’s Director of Business Programmes, said: “This first year has been about creating sector-wide collaboration and developing networks for change, and I’m very pleased with how signatories have responded. In just one year, for example, we’ve set up ten working groups covering a range of key issues from tackling the largest food waste categories, to driving consumer behavioural change.”

The review covers a number of WRAP’s campaigns, including a new programme aimed at businesses in the hospitality and food service and manufacturing sectors called ‘Your Business is Food: Don’t throw it away’. This has been developed alongside Courtauld 2025 signatories with their stakeholders in mind, and provides free tools and techniques to help organisations save money and reduce waste. The Ship Inn in Barrow-in-Furness, for example, apparently saw a 72 per cent reduction in total waste using WRAP’s programme.

Other key successes of the commitment’s first year include the new agreement by signatories to double the amount of surplus food they redistribute by 2020, which WRAP claims will create 60 million meals worth a total of around £60 million, and the charity’s updated food labelling guidance, published in November 2017 after the charity’s latest Retailer Survey found that a third of wasted food could be a result of confusing packaging and labelling.

The guidance recommends that ‘Use By’ dates be increasingly replaced with ‘Best Before’ labels to reduce the disposal of products which could still be consumed. Since its publication, a regional chain of supermarkets has begun selling products past their ‘Best Before’ dates in acknowledgment that these foods need not be wasted.

Commenting on the review, Therese Coffey, the government’s Resources Minister, said: “Resource efficiency can lead to better sustainability, increased productivity and when it works well is a real boost to UK industry. The Courtauld agreement has secured impressive commitment from across the supply chain - from farm to fork – and I can see real progress being made, with many businesses working in collaboration. I look forward to seeing work develop and continued industry innovation that will to accelerate the pace of change even further.”

Moving forward after mixed results

Noting the mixed results of Courtauld 3, the previous stage of the voluntary agreement, which in fact oversaw a rise in household food waste (HHFW) levels from 7 million tonnes in 2012 to 7.3 million in 2015, WRAP’s review sets out a more targeted approach for campaigns to combat this in the coming years, focusing on those generating the most waste (the 18-34 age group) and the specific behaviours which contribute to waste (buying too much food and storing it inefficiently).

Discussing the future of the commitment, Creed said: “It is incredibly challenging to reduce food waste, and the stalling of progress shows just how difficult it is. WRAP is calling on all businesses, organisations, campaigners and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) who work in this area, to unite together in in the fight against food waste.

“There is a lot more work for us all to do if we are to achieve our collective ambition. But seeing so many organisations and individuals truly committed to being part of the solution makes me very optimistic that we will succeed in reshaping the food supply chain.”

The review can be found in full on WRAP’s dedicated website.

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