Last reviewed 3 April 2018

Jeff Cooper looks at the Courtauld Commitment 2025 and its implications for businesses throughout the whole of the food supply chain.

The Courtauld Commitment 2025 (C2025) sets ambitious targets for food waste prevention and reduction for the UK, enveloped within the overall target for reducing the environmental impacts of food waste by 20% by 2025 compared with 2015. In addition, there is the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to reduce global food waste by 50% by 2030. This is an objective adopted by a number of businesses as well as governments albeit there will, as always, be problems with the measurement protocol to be used.

This article on C2025 focuses on the following aspects of the programme which have implications for businesses throughout the whole of the food supply chain.

  • The continuation of work of the Hospitality and Food Service Agreement (HaFSA), which finished in 2016 but has been continued under C2025 under the new title Your Business Is Food; Don’t Throw It Away (YBIF). Its objective is to reinvigorate interest and align the catering sector to the C2025 programme.

  • The extension of the YBIF programme into the food processing and manufacturing sector from 2017 which was formally launched in 2018 following a series of consultations and development of guidance developed both with associations for food manufacturers and individual companies.

Your business is food

The initial Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) Courtauld Commitment programmes were focused on the retail sector. The hospitality and food service sector was engaged in 2012 through the HaFSA to undertake reductions in food waste and recycling of both packaging and food wastes. HaFSA has now been incorporated into C2025, the focus of which has now more firmly been focused on food waste prevention and reutilisation of surplus food, plus the recovery of food residues.

The HaFSA initiative’s objectives have now been subsumed into the C2025 programme to ensure its momentum continues with further developments, including most significantly YBIF. The original YBIF was designed to prevent food waste generation in the (HaFS) sector and was developed during 2016, launched in 2017 and has been adopted by a number of restaurant chains and individual businesses. Even the title of the initiative was recycled because in 2016, while the steering group was mulling over alternative titles for the new campaign, colleagues in South Australia had already developed a food waste prevention initiative entitled Your Business is Food and had prepared information material and graphics to promote their campaign. They offered to allow WRAP to use the title and the promotional materials, which have been amended for British circumstances.

From the work undertaken so far through a number of initiatives generated by C2025 and HaFSA, partners and local projects, such as the GLA’s FoodSave scheme, there is a considerable body of research findings showing both the full costs of food waste and the opportunities available to businesses to prevent and reutilise it. Measurement of the food waste is an essential precursor for any business handling food in order to devise appropriate mechanisms to prevent food waste at source, examine opportunities for surplus food redistribution for human consumption and animal feed and thereafter any residual food waste directed ideally to anaerobic digestion, or otherwise to in-vessel composting (IVC).

With respect to measurement, the YBIF seven-day tracking sheet enables food businesses to look at their different sources of food waste over a typical week. However, following its promotion and feedback from restaurants and other businesses preparing food for a range of outlets, WRAP introduced a three-day version in order to meet business’ concern that seven days was too long to engage staff. It therefore also provided a quick means for assessing their food waste to determine whether they needed to go for the full seven-day option. Almost all to whom it was offered did utilise the three-day option and, when they used the WRAP calculator to convert their food waste generated to determine the overall financial cost, found that their food waste was costing them not only the collection and disposal costs but also the costs of food purchase and preparation.

The accuracy and consistency of site level food waste is an issue and most producers are reliant on the data provided by their waste management contractors. The continuing work of HaFSA has continued through a focus group which has set up four task forces, including data accuracy and development of measurement.

The measurement aspect was particularly important and this therefore required collaboration with waste management service contractors to examine how they were both collecting information from their clients and also providing information back to them about food waste weights collected. There were four of the leading waste management companies that collaborated with the WRAP team and good quality data was provided through a questionnaire survey.

As a result, guidelines regarding weighing of food waste which could be updated and supplementary guidance about draft contractual terms between food waste producers and their potential waste management companies could be generated. There are now a number of additional ways to simplify the process of calculating food waste from restaurants, including the Winnow and LeanPath measurement systems, especially for plate waste, which is the most difficult element to assess in restaurants. Draft clauses for measurement, monitoring and reporting in contracts were also illustrated in the guidance. In addition, two useful case studies were provided: one by Suez and the other by Pizza Hut and their contractor Biffa.

TF2 focused on measurement and potential tools to assist catering companies. From the feedback of HaFSA signatories and their members, it was evident that companies were measuring their food waste but many were suggesting that it would be good to have greater clarification on several matters regarding definitions of food waste and measurement aspects. In order to ensure greater consistency, WRAP is using the internationally agreed Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard (FLAWS) which was developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI), which WRAP helped to establish. This standard has been adopted by Tesco and has become a reporting requirement for Tesco’s top 25 suppliers. It has also formed the basis for the Institute of Grocery Distribution’s (IGD) work which has established a set of principles based on measurement from farm to fork.

Also there is an FAQ section which people can use to make the distinction between food surplus and food waste, for example, whereby the food surplus includes both redistribution and for animal feed; also how to classify catering food waste dropped on the floor during preparation and serving. However, there is a need for more case studies because, at the time of writing, the only case study was from IKEA for its in-store restaurant facilities. This guidance is available at www.wrap.org.uk.

YBIF and the food processing and manufacturing sector

In early 2018, the WRAP-sponsored initiative Your Business is Food was extended to the food manufacturing sector. In 2017, WRAP and a number of partner organisations, including the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), the IGD, Federation of Bakers and Dairy UK decided to tackle the food waste that is generated further up the food supply chain in the food manufacturing sector through the C2025 YBIF Manufacturing Focus Group. The extension of YBIF to the manufacturing sector is designed to help engage with the businesses that are members of C2025 partners and associations that were willing to join this initiative.

An initial meeting of partners and supporters to agree a plan for future action was held in July 2017. At this first meeting, a modified version of the YBIF brochure suitably adapted for the food manufacturing sector was agreed. The procedures for testing the guidance materials for the pilot sites discussed at the inaugural meeting were finalised. These materials comprised:

  • a guide to stimulate initial action

  • a walk-round checklist to note down the initial findings

  • a waste review sheet

  • an action plan template.

The IGD waste identification matrix is a series of Excel spreadsheets that allows the food processor to assess the financial costs of different sources of food waste in detail. Not surprisingly, it is difficult to engage with the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector. Engaging the SMEs is where Scotland has an advantage over other UK administrations because already by this time over 60 SMEs in the food processing sector have been audited. This is thanks to funding from the Scottish Government channelled through Zero Waste Scotland.

Following the results from these pilots, the guidance was modified so that the lessons learnt from the pilots could be assessed and any detailed changes to the starter pack made before it was disseminated through the C2025 partners in the autumn of 2017. Thereafter a national Your Business is Food campaign aimed at the food processing sector was launched as one of the outputs of the C2025 programme at the annual C2025 meeting on 31 January 2018. This provides access to all food processors with the starter pack detailing information with measuring and monitoring food waste. This enables all those varied producers and manufacturers of food products throughout the UK to access the promotional materials and the lessons of the pilots.

Further guidance

Courtauld Commitment 2025: Annual Review 2016/17 (2017), WRAP

Food Waste Measurement Principles and Resources Guide (2018), WRAP

New guidelines for Measuring and Reporting Food Waste in Hospitality and Food Service sector (2018), WRAP

Your Business Is Food; Don’t Throw It Away new resources for food manufacturers (2018), WRAP

Jeff Cooper is Editor of ICE’s Waste and Resource Management Journal