Publishing data key to tackling supermarket food waste – Tesco

Publishing data key to tackling supermarket food waste – Tesco
Dave Lewis
The Chief Executive of Tesco, the only UK supermarket to currently disclose its food waste figures, has called for more companies to make their food waste figures public, following revelations that the supermarket disposed of the equivalent of more than 119 million meals as food waste last year.

Dave Lewis made the call while speaking at the Global Summit of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) in Cape Town on Wednesday (15 June). The CGF is a global network of around 400 retailers, manufacturers and service providers from consumer goods industry, of which Tesco is a member.

Tesco has been openly reporting its food waste figures since 2013, and this year reported that food waste at the supermarket increased by four per cent in 2015/16. However, Lewis said the process has helped identify problem areas in the supply chain as well as aiding the development of programmes to tackle the problem of food waste.

In his speech, Lewis, who joined Tesco in 2014, called on other members in the industry to do the same and to do more to tackle the growing problem of food waste, which he highlighted costs the world around US$940 billion (£659 billion) per year.

He also encouraged companies across all points of the supply chain to collaborate and do more to redistribute food still fit for human consumption. Other measures raised included simplified date coding on food and cutting time our of the supply chain.

Speaking at the summit, Lewis said: “When I arrived at Tesco, we were the only UK retail company to publish our food waste data. What the data shows is that it’s clear where we need to focus our efforts. Nearly three years after we announced it, we are still the only UK retailer publishing our data.

“Tackling food waste makes sense for business, it will help people and our planet, and it’s also the right thing to do.”

He also commented on the Tesco blog: ‘So: transparency, innovation, redistribution. In each area, there are very specific things we need to do to reduce global food waste… and we’ve got no time to waste.’

Tesco’s food waste

According to Tesco’s 2015/16 annual report, which was published in April, the supermarket’s total generation of food waste increased by four per cent from the previous year to a record high of 59,400 tonnes, the equivalent of 119 million meals.

Publishing data key to tackling supermarket food waste – Tesco
Tesco defines waste as any food that is no longer fit for human consumption. The amount of food wasted across the year is the equivalent to disposing of one in every 100 food products sold, though 17,800 tonnes of bakery food was sent for use as animal feed and other waste was processed using anaerobic digestion and converted to energy. None of Tesco’s food waste goes to landfill.

The waste from beer, wines and spirits was blamed for the overall rise, but produce-derived food waste, which Lewis claims is often the most wasted, decreased by two per cent.

The increase comes despite a number of measures the supermarket has taken to decrease its waste, such as reducing the time food sits in the supply chain, both to allow more time to sell it and to make sure it lasts longer after purchase. Tesco has also pledged to redistribute its edible food waste to charity by 2017 and ‘buy one get one free’ deals have not been offered on fruit and vegetables since 2014 as they promote over-purchasing.

Framework for food waste standards

Earlier this month, a standard seeking to create a consistent framework for companies and government to measure and track their food waste and loss was launched at the Global Green Growth Forum in Copenhagen. The ‘Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard’ was created by the Food Loss and Waste Protocol (FLWP) a partnership of governmental, global and industry groups, which includes the CGF. Tesco was one of the companies to pilot the framework in a live environment to assess its impact on targeting areas of significant food waste and enabling action to be taken.

It is hoped the standard, which has been in development for the last three years, will provide a consistent way of measuring food waste by setting consistent definitions and reporting requirements.

The ‘Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard’ can be downloaded from the FWLP website.

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