Working towards a sustainable environment

Coffee chain Costa has become the latest company to sign the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) ‘Step up to the Plate’ pledge, which commits signatories to halving their food waste output by 2030.

The move builds on Costa's Food Surplus Policy, which enables store managers to make donations directly to local charities on demand 

The move builds on Costa’s Food Surplus Policy, which enables store managers to make donations directly to local charities on demand 

Launched last month at a symposium in London, the commitment requires signatories to align with SDG 2, Zero Hunger, by adopting WRAP’s food waste reduction roadmap. The framework, built in partnership with charity IGD, sets out how organisations can measure and act on wastage levels across a “farm-to-fork” approach. 

By signing the pledge, Costa has additionally committed to using its voice to empower the public and drive wider behaviour change aimed at tackling the UK’s annual food waste mountain of 10.2 million tonnes.

Costa’s actions on food waste to date include re-designing its ordering system in order to reduce surplus, discounting food due to expire at midnight by 50% during the last hour of trading at all stores and encouraging its store teams to directly donate surplus products to local charities. The chain’s Hull stores are additionally signed up to Food Waste Hero – Cranswick and OLIO’s collaborative scheme aimed at tacking food poverty in the city-region through redistribution. 

Costa sends any food that cannot be redistributed through these channels for anaerobic digestion facilities, where it is used to make biogas and fertiliser.

“At Costa Coffee, we are committed to playing our part in reducing waste wherever possible,” Costa’s head of sustainability Victoria Moorhouse said. “We are delighted to be working alongside government to drive change and share best practice, stepping up to the plate and delivering collective action.”

The move from Costa was welcomed by Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who described it as a commitment to “game-changing action to cut food waste.”

“The UK is showing real leadership in this area, and together we will end the environmental and economic scandal that is food waste,” Gove added.

Since Defra launched the commitment, more than 100 businesses from across the food value chain have signed up, with other signatories including the likes of Nestlé, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose & Partners.

The pledge is also open to non-commercial organisations and can be signed by individuals. Michael Gove and Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey were among the first to sign up to the commitment on an individual basis – a move which has seen them vow to change their shopping, cooking and food storage habits, and to encourage similar behaviour from their peers.

Unsurprisingly, another early signatory of the individual version of the pledge is the Government’s Food Waste Champion Ben Elliot, who said that all retailers now “have a responsibility to step up and do [their] bit.”

“We will be highlighting those who participate and those who do not; the food waste crisis can only be solved by collective action,” Elliot added. 

Sarah George