Retailers urged to tackle food waste crisis post COP28

More than 70 organisations – including Unilever, WWF and Wrap – have signed an open letter urging businesses and global leaders to “acknowledge the critical role of food systems in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement”. 

“It is important not to overlook the role of retail supply chains in global food systems,” comments Svante Gothe, Head of Sustainability at RELEX Solutions.

According to a report by The Grocer, supermarkets throw away 277,000 tonnes of edible food annually in the UK alone. In fact, it’s estimated that the UK’s total food waste could feed upwards of 30 million people a year. It’s time to expand the focus on the root of the problem. Retailers must step up and sever the head of the snake by proactively reducing waste at its source—the supply chain.

In the face of this urgent challenge, Gothe sheds light on the ways in which AI can be harnessed to combat food waste. He says: “AI-powered tools can enhance the accuracy of demand forecasting and inventory management in the retail sector. By analysing historical data and real-time information, these systems can predict consumer preferences, optimise stock levels, and minimise overstock situations that often lead to unsold, wasted products.”

“AI can also enable retailers to implement dynamic pricing strategies based on various factors such as product freshness, expiration dates, and demand fluctuations. Through adjusting prices dynamically, retailers can incentivise the swift sale of perishable goods, reducing the likelihood of items reaching their expiration dates and being discarded.”

Algorithms powered by AI have the ability to revolutionise supply chain processes. They do this by identifying inefficiencies, streamlining logistics, and minimising waste at every stage. These intelligent systems can pinpoint opportunities for improvement, ensuring that products reach consumers while they are still fresh and in optimal condition. With these solutions in place, retailers can not only mitigate their environmental impact, but also enhance their bottom line through reduced waste and increased efficiency.

The intensifying focus on environmental responsibility not only places a crucial spotlight on retailers’ actions within their operations, but also underscores the vital need for enhanced collaboration and data sharing upstream in the supply chain. To truly combat the food waste crisis, it is imperative that retailers extend their efforts beyond their own walls and work closely with suppliers, fostering a seamless exchange of information from farm to shelf.

This collaborative approach ensures more accurate planning and resource allocation, ultimately reducing waste throughout the entire supply chain. The urgency for action remains, and retailers must recognise that their responsibility extends far beyond the checkout aisle, encompassing a commitment to sustainable practices that resonate across the entire industry.

Gothe continued: “The spotlight on environmental responsibility is more intense than ever. The collaboration of major organisations in this cause underscores the urgency and collective commitment required to address the food waste crisis. The time for action is now, and retailers must be at the forefront of change, setting an example for industries worldwide. It is a responsibility they cannot afford to overlook.”

“Through strategic implementation of AI technologies and a collective commitment to sustainable practices, the retail industry can pave the way for a more responsible and efficient global food system. As the world gathered for COP28, the call to action resonated loudly with retailers. They must take the lead in the fight against food waste for a healthier planet and a more sustainable future.”

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