When I received an invitation from the organisers of the Rio+20 summit to speak at two specially-arranged debates on food waste and broader resource security, my first reaction was one of pride.
Here was clear evidence that the UK is leading the way with some cutting-edge thinking, with an opportunity for WRAP to present to global audiences some of the detail and insights about our work… and debate with audiences hungry for ideas about how to tackle the issues of resource security and sustainability that face us all.
Yes, I am unashamedly proud of WRAP’s international reputation, for its work on food waste, resource efficiency and recycling. Many countries regard our work – most notably on food waste reduction - as ‘best in class’. It was in this capacity that I was invited to take part in the debates, which address issues which are of global interest and are regarded as critical challenges by many nations, both in the developed and developing world.
The events also present a great opportunity, not only to share WRAP’s acknowledged expertise with others outside of the formal forum settings, but also to learn from the experience of others.
We are a consumption-hungry society and we view the impact of that on the UK alone – rather than globally - at our peril. We rely on so many raw materials goods and services from beyond our shores. I believe that any actions that can be taken globally to improve supply chain resilience have the potential to benefit the UK, so it makes good sense to share best practice and proven working models with as wide an audience as possible.
But my next reaction was to pause….
Should an organisation jointly funded by all the UK governments – and therefore the taxpayer – bear the cost of such an invitation (the organisers had no funds to offer me to offset costs), particularly in the current economic climate? In the end, I felt it was right to go. Why did I think that?
It struck me this was an unmissable opportunity to help shape global thinking and share WRAP’s expertise, as well as learning from other leading practitioners in this area. Collectively in the UK, we have done some great work to start to tackle food waste – yes, there’s more to do – but we can all be rightly proud of the progress made to date.
As a taxpayer myself, I am committed to making sure WRAP delivers good value, and spends wisely to the greatest effect. That’s why I’ll be flying economy, staying only for the minimum time, and taking part in the debates at the weekend, in my own time.
As an organisation we have achievements to be proud of and which bear sharing with others – particularly if we can help our ‘neighbours’ on a global scale with their resource efficiency journeys.
So, I’m looking forward to Rio - and the opportunity to share insights from WRAP’s work, discuss the issues and share knowledge and experience.