Unilever calls on companies to cut food waste

Unilever will today ask other companies, trade bodies and public sector organizations to join its campaign to tackle the 400,000 tonnes of avoidable food waste that is discarded every year.

In a meeting in London the company will issue a call for more signatories to join organizations such as WRAP, Whitbred and Sodexo in supporting its United Against Waste campaign, ahead of a larger push in the spring that will aim to bring together fragmented food waste initiatives.

WRAP estimates avoidable food waste costs the hospitality industry around £722 million (US$1.12 billion) a year through wasted ingredients and labor, out-of-date foods, consumer leftovers or rising disposal costs.

Unilever said it has already formed a "visionary panel" along with other waste bodies to identify measures that could help reduce food waste, such as landfill bans, changes to the planning system, or altering portion sizes in restaurants.

However, the company maintains that the most effective means of curbing waste levels is through the education of those organizations, such as hotels, caterers and schools, that can save money by minimizing and managing waste.

Unilever's United Against Waste campaign was launched last September along with a free Wise up on Waste toolkit to help businesses deal with the problem. It has since been downloaded by around 360 organizations in the U.K. and Ireland.

Last month it unveiled an interactive video wall for operators to share achievements delivered using the toolkit and exchange best practices.

In one video, a pub owner describes how a waste audit cut the vegetable bill by £20 (US$31.8) a week and significantly reduced the amount of food waste coming back on customers' plates.

"We're trying to say it doesn't have to be big, drastic changes," a Unilever spokeswoman told BusinessGreen. "It's the small things that will really make a difference."

The campaign is the latest in a series of business-led initiatives designed to curb food waste. For example, Marks & Spencer and Tesco are trialling technology that makes fresh food last longer, while Sainsbury's recently announced it would change labelling to reassure customers that products can be frozen anytime between the day of purchase and the use-by date.

This article originally appeared on BusinessGreen.

Food waste photo via Shutterstock.