Tesco boss Dave Lewis’ leading role in the war on food waste has been recognised with a nomination for this year’s Retail Activist Award.
Although Tesco’s work on reducing waste predated Lewis’ appointment as boss in September 2014, the supermarket giant has ramped up its crusade under his leadership.
Having become the first UK retailer to publish data for the levels of waste in its own operations in 2013, Tesco vowed in December 2017 to meet a clear but ambitious target – that no food safe for human consumption will be wasted inside its core UK business.
To help meet that goal, Lewis has rubberstamped a series of initiatives. It has widened specifications on fruit and veg, allowing it to take a greater proportion of farmers’ produce. The March 2016 launch of its Perfectly Imperfect range meant Tesco could take parts of the crop that would have previously been shunned.
As a result, Tesco now takes 97% of its British apple growers’ crops and 95% of its suppliers’ strawberries.
Tesco also works with 7,000 charities across the UK through the Community Food Connection, donating food that goes unsold in its stores. Since the scheme’s launch in 2016, Tesco has given more than 30 million meals to community groups, feeding those in need up and down the country.
Any food not taken by charities is offered to shopfloor staff through its ‘colleague shops’ to further reduce waste.
As a result of such initiatives, Tesco is already more than 80% of the way towards reaching its target of being waste-free.
But Lewis’ work extends far beyond the Tesco business. He has been an outspoken figure on the issue, urging his grocery rivals to be equally transparent in revealing food waste figures and to adopt similar practices to reduce those numbers.
When Lewis made the bold pledge just over a year ago, he said: “Food waste has been talked about for years, but if Tesco can make this work, with all our different stores across the country, then why can’t everyone?”
It is a message he has carried into his role as chair of Champions 12.3 – a coalition of leaders from government, businesses, international organisations, research institutions and civil society. The group aims to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level by 2030.
Lewis’ central role in the ongoing effort to reach that global target marks him out as one of the sector’s most determined, passionate activists.
The Retail Activist Award
Lewis has been nominated for the Retail Activist Award at the Retail Week Awards, sponsored by Salesforce.
The prize aims to recognise an individual who has personally championed a cause or led a campaign which demonstrates retail’s good corporate citizenship and contribution to society.
Lewis is on the shortlist alongside James Timpson, chief executive of Timpson, for his work on employing ex-offenders; Steve Murrells, chief executive of The Co-op, for his work on global water poverty; Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland, for his work on plastics and palm oil; Alannah Weston, deputy chair of Selfridges, for her work on Project Ocean and sustainability more widely; and Jacqueline Gold, chief executive of Ann Summers, for her work on empowering women in the workplace.
The winner will be announced at the awards on March 14.
Watch: Dave Lewis on the war on food waste
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Watch: Retail Activist nominee Dave Lewis on the war on food waste