Let's kick off with some figures on food.
Consider, that one third of all food that is produced globally, is wasted. This costs the global economy up to $300billion a year, and for the average family in the UK - that translates to around £700 per year.
Then there's the cost to the environment. Attendees of COP21 agreed to restrict global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius. Yet, if we continue with our current approach to the way we produce, manufacture, sell and use food, we could see a two degree rise from this activity alone by 2050. In fact, if food waste were a country, it would be the world's third largest greenhouse gas emitter after China and the USA.
And all this is happening whilst almost a billion people around the world go to bed hungry each night. There's more than enough food to feed everyone, if only we were smarter with how we used it - that's a prospect I find hard to stomach. Yet the population is rising, and by 2050, we'll have an extra two billion more mouths to feed - squeezing our food supply chains even more.
The reality is, change isn't optional - it's an urgent necessity.
What do we want?
We want big changes - we want to transform the way we value food. Countless petitions demanding change backs this up. Just think, when Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall took to our screens in November with Hugh's War on Waste, he left an audience captivated, shocked and with an avid appetite for reform. A reform that's already happening as retailers embrace change. Asda, for example, is offering 'wonky veg' boxes; Tesco and FareShare are redistributing unsold produce; Morrisons have partnered with FoodCycle to serve lunches for the underprivileged using surplus food; and Sainsbury's launched a £10million Waste Less, Save More, project - and that's just to name a few.
When are we going to get it?
But as I said we need more change and we need it now. A new initiative, geared towards making the food supply chain more efficient and more resilient to the challenges we face in the future, has just launched. It's an approach that brings together everyone in the supply chain that can make a difference. The retailers Aldi, Asda, Co-Op, Lidl, M&S, Morrison's, Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose have pledged their support already, and they're not the only ones. Major food manufacturers and hospitality and food service companies have also signed up.
Behold Courtauld 2025 - WRAP's 10 year commitment to work with the industry to change the way we produce and value food. This builds on previous Courtauld Commitments which have fared well and delivered tangible results. But we face new and more complex challenges now, so we need to go further. We need to look at the bigger picture of food sustainability, and look to tackle new areas such as farm waste, and water use for example.
This is no mean feat. The agreement has an ambitious set of targets waiting to be pursued.
How are we going to get it?
We know from past experience, that we've been able to turn what was perceived as the unthinkable, into the achievable. Businesses have made environmental gains without affecting profitability. In fact, they've even built customer loyalty as they meet consumer demand to help them waste less food. Having this knowledge means that we know we can put the social and environmental benefits at the heart of the issue, yet continue to prosper.
And that is exactly what we have done with the Courtauld Commitment. It's unique - unlike anything else in the world. Firstly, it's a voluntary agreement, and businesses have become part of it because they realise collective change, delivers wide scale change. Secondly, it tackles silo business practices. Companies don't just think about how it benefits their own business or their own customers. It encourages them to think about how it can benefit the whole supply chain - for financial gain, and to benefit the UK environmentally. Last but not least, it's about action. Words are powerful, but they don't deliver the wide scale change the sector needs. Action through Courtauld will.
Essentially, it's about delivering a more sustainable and resilient way of producing and consuming food, fit for the next generation. And fundamentally, it's about valuing and maximising every piece of food we produce, right down to the last grain. And to put it into context - if we succeed - the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 will be delivered, probably ahead of schedule, and the food system will produce less carbon emissions, helping to deliver the COP21 ambitions.
Who's going to do it?
The anti-food waste movement has been growing in momentum - 100 UK businesses and organisations have already committed to take action. I personally commit to take action too. What about you? To make a real impact, we need makers, sellers, collectors and the people who eat food to really get behind this cause.
Malcolm X once said 'the future belongs to those who prepare for it today', and that couldn't be truer of our food system.
So let's work together to make the present and the future a better, and more sustainable place - for people, planet and the economy.