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45 (140) 2020
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The Responsible Rebound

Every little helps matters

By Katarzyna Bąk, CSR Manager, communication department, Tesco Polska
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We believe that every little help makes a big difference. This belief drives what we do for our colleagues around the world, the thousands of places and communities we operate in, and the millions of customers we serve every single day. It’s also the idea at the heart of our Little Helps Plan, which since 2017 has set out how we will play our part to tackle the social and environmental challenges that matter most to us all.

Our strategy, based on four pillars –  Products, People, Planet, Places – focuses on issues such as food waste, packaging and supporting local communities. Last year alone, we saved over 3,000 tons of food in Tesco from going to waste, from which more than seven million meals were prepared, 7,000 children benefited from Food Explorers! educational programme, and thanks to work of our experts, we removed 78% of non-recyclable materials from the packaging of our own-brand products in Poland. This is only a small part of our activities, which we implement as part of the Little Helps Plan Strategy.

To restore respect for food

In Poland, around 4% of people live below the level of extreme poverty. This means that they have less than 614 zlotys a month to live on. At the same time, in our country, we waste as much as nine million tonnes of food every year; in the world, this is as much as one third of all food grown globally. Wasting this food isn’t just a social problem; it’s an environmental one. When we waste food, we waste all the energy and water it takes to grow, transport, and package it. If food waste were a country it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Why so much food is wasted? The phenomenon of waste has been defined by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). The term FLW (Food Loss & Waste) can be found in the studies and describes loss and waste of food. This applies to the entire food chain: 11% of food is wasted already at the production stage, 19% in processing, 5% at the sales stage and over 53% of food is wasted in households.

To tackle food waste effectively, all these areas need to be addressed: consumer education, cooperation along the entire supply chain, and working on our own operations. That is why we have initiated a series of actions with one aim: to reduce food waste.

One of the biggest challenges is to restore respect for food and to show that food can be a source of joy and build social bonds. It is the message of Tesco Poland educational programme Food Explorers!. We teach the youngest children that food is a treasure to be cared for and – above all – not wasted. A unique element of the programme is the fact that it is based on direct education – students in Anti-Food Waste Clubs in schools discover through play the variety of tastes and learn how to take care of food. Additional educational materials are also available on the programme website www.oduprawydopotrawy.pl

Consumer education is very important, but changes should also be made from the inside. That is why in Tesco, in 2013, we started a programme to donate food surplus donation directly from our stores to local food banks and from 2017 to Caritas Polska as well. Food good for consumption which a given store will not be able to sell before the expiry date is donated to people in need. Currently, more than 200 Tesco stores in Poland are donating food surpluses. Since the beginning of the programme, over 12,000 tonnes of products have been delivered to Food Banks and to Caritas - enough to prepare nearly 29 million meals.

Tesco is the first retailer in Central Europe to publish food waste data for our own operations. The power of publishing a detailed breakdown of our waste is that we are able to identify hotspots and take action. This has enabled us to work in partnership with others to reduce food waste and increase food surplus redistribution in a targeted way. We think it’s incredibly important for every retailer to be clear about waste within their own operations, so we can find ways of reducing waste together over the long-term. Our total food waste has reduced by 38 % in the last year, from 8,946 tonnes in 2018/19 to 5,502 tonnes in 2019/20. This is 64%% reduction compared to our baseline year of 2016/17. It means that less than 1% (0,75%) of food we sell at Tesco in Poland is wasted.

Real problems, real actions – support for local communities during the Covid-19 epidemic 

The epidemic has resulted in the worsening economic situation of many people in Poland; that is why the need for food and other essential products has increased. The partnership developed over the past years is now particularly valuable. Every week our stores donate nearly 40 tons of surplus food, but this is still not enough. That is why in April and May Tesco donated over 20 tons of food products as a one-off donation. The food was sorted and packed by volunteers of the food banks and Caritas Polska and send to local organisations that help people in need. Annually, the food banks provide food to approximately 3,500 such organisations.

In order to support local communities, Tesco conducts food collections twice a year, before Easter and Christmas, during which customers can support those for whom the holiday season is particularly difficult by giving them food products with long shelf life. In total, since 2014, when Tesco has been conducting food collections, customers have donated 3,768 tonnes of food, making it possible to prepare 8.8 million meals. This year, due to the situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Easter Food Collection could not take place, so we took the initiative to organise an exceptional Summer Food Collection.

For two summer months, products for the most needy could be donated in all stores. Thanks to the support of our customers, we collected a total of 15,295 kg of products, which is the equivalent of 36 331 meals. Flour, rice, pasta, sugar, oil, jams, instant soups, tea, coffee –  all the items collected during the collection were donated to food banks and Caritas Polska and were handed over to those in need.

We only have one Planet

Reducing food waste reduces CO2 emissions, but that is still not enough. In Poland, 3.5 million tonnes of plastic are used annually. One third of the 3.5 million tonnes of plastic used by the Polish market is used for the production of packaging.

Studies show that awareness of the environmental impact of plastics is growing year on year. Similarly to plastics recycling. We take the sustainability of our products and packaging very seriously, and always consider the impact of our business on the environment. We know that packaging plays an important role in protecting products and reducing food waste, but it shouldn’t come at an unaffordable cost to our planet.

That’s why we work towards sourcing the most sustainable products we can, and only use packaging where it serves a clear purpose. We’re taking action to remove all non-recyclable and excess packaging in our business – including plastic. Where we can’t remove it, we reduce it to an absolute minimum and look to reuse it. We are working to ensure whatever is left can be recycled. If packaging can’t be recycled, it will have no place in our business.

Our ambition is that all packaging for our own products should be fully recyclable or reusable by 2025. We have already removed 78% of the non-recyclable materials from the packaging of our own-brand products in Poland, and 100% of the cardboard of our own-brand beverage packaging comes from sustainable sources.

We believe that every little help makes a big difference. The future of our business depends both on these actions, and the changing world around us. You can read more about our Little Helps Plan Strategy here.

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