Major supermarket retailers in the United Kingdom have agreed to publish data on how much food waste they generate each year. The supermarkets agreed on a common methodology to measure food waste, making company-specific data both available and comparable among companies. The agreement represents a major victory for organizations campaigning for greater transparency in retailer food waste levels.
“The fact that one-third of food is wasted around the world is a climate calamity as well as a moral disgrace: it is high time the food industry took responsibility for their part in this,” says Carina Millstone, Executive Director of Feedback, an environmental organization campaigning to eliminate food waste globally.
Before the agreement, food waste reporting standards and commitments varied wildly across retailers. Tesco, the UK’s largest grocery retailer, was the first major supermarket to publish food waste data in its UK operations in 2014, as well as develop a number of priority targets and actions such as halving food waste in their own operations and supply chains by 2030. The company has recently announced that it would be making a joint commitment with their top 24 suppliers to halve food waste in their supply chain by 2030. The UK’s second largest retailer, Sainsbury’s, agreed to publish data on its in-store waste in 2016. All other major retailers had not previously made food waste data publicly available.
The new agreement will provide greater transparency on supermarket’s food waste levels, allowing campaign organizations and consumers to identify the best and worst performing retailers. Transparent and consistent reporting also enables government and social entrepreneurs to create data-driven solutions to reduce supermarket waste and catalyze further action across the food supply chain.
“Reporting on food going to waste across their operations is an important first step towards credible action to reduce waste, allowing retailers to identify waste hotspots and prevent it occurring in the first place,” says Millstone.
“[But] we need to see public commitments from each of the individual retailers to exactly what they’re going to publish and when. The gold standard is independently audited, publicly available data that extends right through their supply chain, from shelf to field. Farmers still face too many retailer practices which force them to waste good food, and this issue needs greater recognition.”
The supermarket retailers are yet to publicly commit to publishing their data or share information on what principles and measurements are included in the new methodology. Ongoing discussions to help finalize the measurement methods and further details are being facilitated by the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD).