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Three leading UK supermarkets failing to do enough to tackle food waste

26 Mar 2018

Three of the UK’s leading supermarkets have still not promised to halve their food waste by 2030, despite the UN urging companies to commit to this global target.

International development agency Tearfund has been asking its supporters to write to their local supermarket asking them to pledge to cut the amount of edible food ending up in the bin, in line with the UN Global Goal target, and to make public their plans to do so.

A third of all food produced globally is not eaten and waste on this scale is fueling climate change, causing more droughts, floods and less reliable rain, making life harder for the people in poverty across the world that Tearfund works with.

Ten UK supermarkets were contacted by their customers during the campaign. In response most supermarkets made pledges to halve their food waste, but despite more than 9,500 people asking stores to take action, Asda, Lidl and Morrisons did not agree.

The supermarket’s responses to Tearfund’s Renew Our Food campaign have been published online, with the stores making the firmest commitments rated green, those in the middle getting amber and those who did not move on the issue rated red.

Top of the table with a green rating are the Co-op, M&S and Tesco, with Aldi, Sainsbury’s, Spar Northern Ireland and Waitrose on amber. Asda, Lidl and Morrisons are on red.

Tearfund’s Director of Advocacy and Influencing Dr Ruth Valerio said: “It’s really great news that seven UK supermarkets have engaged so well with Tearfund’s campaign and committed to halve their food waste by 2030.

“But with 60% of the 10 million tonnes of food we waste in the UK every year avoidable, we need other stores to step up and pledge to do more.

“Before our food even arrives in store, a third of vegetables are wasted because of supermarkets’ cosmetic standards and in total a third of all food grown in the world is never eaten.

“This is totally unjust - especially when you consider that producing all this wasted food generates huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, which makes life harder for people in poorer countries due to climate change.

“Tesco’s commitment alone could save carbon emissions equivalent to taking almost 50,000 cars off UK roads. So it’s action that can make a real difference.”

Notes to editor 

  • For more information and interviews please contact Tearfund’s Antony Bushfield on 020 3906 3131, antony.bushfield@tearfund.org, or Esther Trewinnard on 07929 335606 or esther.trewinnard@tearfund.org 
  • Stats on food waste are from WRAP - http://www.wrap.org.uk 
  • This scorecard rates each supermarket based on their response to Tearfund’s two campaign asks. It is not an assessment of their performance on other ethical and environmental issues. Green: Commitment to halve food waste and publish plans. Amber: Commitment to halve food waste. Red: No commitments. 
  • The impact of Tesco’s commitment is based on calculations using Tesco’s published food waste data for 2013/14 (their baseline year for measuring progress on the 2030 target) where 48,182 tonnes of food was wasted that year (Tesco Little Helps Plan, 2017); and data on carbon emissions from household food waste (WRAP, 2015
  • Goal 12 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all, calls for global food waste to be halved by 2030. 
Tearfund is a Christian relief and development agency and a member of the Disasters’ Emergency Committee. Founded in 1968, Tearfund has been working around the world for 50 years responding to disasters and helping lift communities out of poverty. For more information about the work of Tearfund, please visit www.tearfund.org.

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