For once, Tesco is having a good news day. Britain’s biggest supermarket has unveiled a plan to tackle waste by teaming up with charities to give away food that is perfectly edible but past its sell-by date.
The supermarket threw away 55,400 tonnes of food in the last year, 30,000 of which could have been safely eaten. That was something chief executive Dave Lewis said he ‘didn’t feel comfortable about’.
‘No one wants to throw away food which could otherwise be eaten,’ he said in a statement. ‘We don’t throw away much food in our own operations but even the 1% we do throw away amounts to 55,400 tonnes.’
Tesco is working with food redistribution charity FareShare and Irish social enterprise FoodCloud to create an app that will let store managers alert local charities about surplus food at the end of each day. The organisations, which will include homeless hostels, women’s refuges and children’s breakfast clubs, can then confirm what they want to collect.
Lewis said the scheme, which is already running and Ireland and will be trialled in 10 UK stores, wasn’t a direct response to Tesco’s recent troubles, namely the biggest loss in its history and ongoing investigations over a £263m profits overstatement.
‘This is not something which is a response to short term other news in our business,’ Lewis told The Huffington Post. ‘We know that this is the right thing for us to be doing… Everybody wins here if we get it right.’
The timing is convenient, coming two weeks after France was widely hailed for passing a law banning supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food. And it certainly won’t harm Tesco as it works to repair its reputation and boost morale among its staff. One laudable project won’t stop customers switching to Aldi and Lidl, but of course every little helps.