Courtauld 2025 Summit 2019: A chance to reflect and refresh

Peter Maddox, Director, WRAP UK

On the train going to the annual Courtauld 2025 Summit in Birmingham last week, I was reflecting on the growing public consciousness about the impact that the current global food system is having on our own health and the health of the planet. The emerging consensus that this is no longer sustainable was neatly echoed in the title of the UK Government’s Resources and Waste Strategy’s dedicated chapter on food waste: Enough is Enough.

At the same time reports of job losses, a beleaguered high street and confusion over the terms of our departure from the EU are all contributing to a feeling of business uncertainty in the food industry.

So it was against this backdrop that WRAP met with our Courtauld partners at the Summit to reflect, share good practice and renew our collective commitment.

Despite the challenges, I was delighted and inspired by the real buzz and determination from our Courtauld partners to make the step change that is needed if we are to meet our targets, and our global commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2030.

The Summit reaffirmed to me that Courtauld 2025 has a critical role to play in coordinating and supporting business efforts to tackle food waste from farm to fork. It also reaffirmed my belief in the power of collaborative action. Here were major brands and businesses from across the supply chain willing to share how the Target, Measure, Act approach was working for them, at scale, and with real impact, in a genuine spirit of working towards a collective goal.

As well as focusing ahead, the Summit is always a good opportunity to take stock of what we have achieved.

And there were some game-changing initiatives in 2018.

A major step forward was the launch of the UK’s Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, which builds on the work Courtauld signatories have done in defining good practice and seeking to influence suppliers to Target, Measure and Act. It is ambitious and trailblazing – we want all the UK’s major food businesses acting by 2025 – and with governments looking set to introduce requirements for measurement – creates an opportunity for signatories to show leadership and get ahead of the game.

We need the Roadmap to be embedded further and for business to use their economic clout to persuade their partners and suppliers to do the same. And if they face challenges, we are here to help.

We’ve achieved world-beating actions to tackle food waste on-farm, as well as produced pioneering new research into the scale of milk waste across the food chain and in homes – evidence we will turn into action through the Courtauld Dairy Working Group.

Redistribution was also a priority for us in 2018. We have already had significant success, increasing redistribution via charitable routes by 80% over the two years from 2015 to 2017, and by 30% via commercial routes. Signatories want to take this further, with an aim to double redistribution over the five years to 2020.

All of these achievements contributed to Courtauld 2025 being recognised as the beacon for others around the world on tackling food waste. We were delighted to be awarded the prestigious State-of-the Art Partnership of the Year Award at the P4G Summit in Copenhagen in October. It was in recognition of Courtauld’s demonstrable results, but also its history, scale and innovation.

Looking forward, there is certainly no room for complacency. It was agreed at the C2025 Summit that we need to embed and accelerate this work. There was also consensus that we need a radical, bold approach to reducing household food waste, which, despite such early success, has plateaued, and remains our biggest challenge.

My focus in 2019 will be to supercharge efforts on consumer food waste prevention, which includes working with our business partners. We are asking Courtauld members to join one of two new task forces, one on Behaviour Change Interventions, chaired by Paul Vanston from INCPEN; and another Marketing and Communications, chaired by Nick Davies from Neighbourly.

We need businesses to really get behind us in this monumental challenge. At the Summit, I asked businesses to help us develop effective behaviour change initiatives this year by hosting pilots for promising interventions and ultimately rolling them out at scale across the sector.

I also asked businesses to unleash the firepower of their in-house marketing and communications to reach out to their customers and help them make the changes that we know will cut food waste. Courtauld 2025 has some of the world’s most successful food businesses as signatories, and their skills and influence in connecting with citizens in bold, impactful ways will be critical.

We can all be champions in the fight against food waste, driving change on a national, as well as a global, scale. We’ve come so far, but now it’s time for a step change. I want us all to speed up and scale up. Enough is enough.