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Surge in food waste is undermining net zero progress

24 July 2022

Pressure on supply chains has led to food buyers in the UK’s biggest organisations reporting a 60% increase in food waste over the last six months, casting casts doubt on the food industry’s ability to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. 

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According to a new study from Sodexo UK & Ireland nearly 85% of food supply chain heads say the pandemic has caused long-term damage to their supply chain, from which they are yet to recover. Nearly one- third believe their supply chain will not return to optimum efficiency for a full year, while 44% are impacted by labour shortages and 38% by freight challenges in their supply chain.

Over one-third have also said they will be forced to continue increasing their prices due to the difficulties in managing their supply chain
The research shows that to increase their resilience, UK food supply chain heads are increasingly diversifying their supplier base by working with smaller suppliers, with over one-third, while 35% are also looking to source more food domestically.
Commenting on the findings, Aoife Wycherley, head of supply chain & food procurement at Sodexo UK & Ireland, said: “Diversifying the food supply chain is essential for building resilience. SMEs can enable greater agility because they’re more flexible, innovative and, tend to drive domestic food sourcing which, in turn, can reduce carbon by cutting down on air and freight usage.
“This makes having SMEs in the supply chain essential for those that need to maintain supply and meet climate targets. Carbon data reporting is, however, a huge burden for small businesses, and we need greater industry collaboration from large organisations to support them with this challenge in order to achieve net zero in the supply chain.”
Reducing food waste is a critical part of minimising carbon emissions in the supply chain. Despite this, over one-third of respondents to the Sodexo research admits to deprioritising food waste due to the ongoing challenges in the supply chain over the past year. A similar proportion (34%), however, do support the introduction of mandatory food waste reporting which is proposed in the Government’s recently published food strategy.

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