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Tesco vows to tackle food waste across its supply chain

Tesco has committed to reduce food waste around the world in its CSR report ‘Tesco and Society‘.

The retailer giant’s chief executive, Philip Clarke, said Tesco will use its scale to lead the industry in reducing food waste by addressing its entire supply chain.

Tesco has suppliers in more than 70 countries, more than 6,500 stores and 50 million customers around the world.

The retailer said in its report that according to the best estimates a third of food is wasted, and 16% of this occurs at the production stage, as well as 16% occurring at the home. It said less than 1% is wasted in Tesco stores.

According to the retailer it generates less food waste in its UK stores than other countries because of steps taken to prevent it, including reducing lead times for orders. Surplus food that cannot be sold is donated to charities, working with Fareshare in the UK, which redistributes food. Otherwise, it is disposed of to animal feedstock, anaerobic digestion or incineration.

Tesco stated in its report it plans to develop a blueprint to share best practice from UK stores to those around the world.

The blueprint is part of Tesco’s wider programme to reduce food waste in these areas: Tesco operations, agriculture and supply chain, and customers.

To achieve this, Tesco committed:

  • To be more transparent about the levels of food waste across the value chain and develop new ways to measure and track progress. Tesco plans to publish baseline data on food waste by the end of the year
  • To do even more to minimise waste in our own operations and reduce food waste across all our stores
  • To continue to work to reduce food waste across the value chain globally through effective partnership with our producers and suppliers and by helping customers
  • To ensure that surplus food, wherever possible, goes to those in need.

Matt Simister, commercial director and reducing food waste group leader for Tesco said steps taken so far towards these goals included consulting with experts, surveying food producers and customers on food waste, and engaging with key international bodies and NGOs.

He said this process had helped Tesco build a better picture of where unnecessary food waste occurs.

Further research into food waste in agriculture will be undertaken via operations in other countries and using online networks, to see where food waste can be prevented.

To deal with consumer waste, Tesco said it is working with WRAP and the Sustainable Consumption Institute to conduct further consumer research. The retailer said it is already improving date codes on its products, will sell food in smaller portions and will tailor food promotions to stop encouraging people to buy large amounts of food with a short shelf life.

Clarke told the Sunday Telegraph: “It may sound counter-intuitive for Tesco to help our customers reduce the amount of food they waste, because it is likely to involve reducing the volume of food they buy. And I understand some people might be sceptical hearing it from a supermarket CEO. But the issue we are trying to solve is a long-term risk.”

The report highlights the issue of food scarcity in the future, as a result of a dramatically rising global population.

Two other aims outlined in the report are helping customers live healthier lifestyles and supporting young people find opportunities in the workplace.

MRW recently reported that any future version of the Courtauld Commitment, the voluntary agreement to cut food and packaging waste, is likely to focus on the lifecycle of products.

In March, MRW reported that Sainsbury’s, The Co-operative and Nestle are leading trials to improve the environmental sustainability of some food products across their supply chain.

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