A host of Woolworths suppliers have joined the retailer in committing to driving down food waste ahead of International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste on 29 September.

In 2020, Woolworths was a founding signatory of the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa’s (CGCSA) Food Loss and Waste Voluntary Agreement, which commits members to halve their food loss and waste by 2030. The retailer confirmed this week that 48 of its food suppliers have also become signatories. Notably, 26 of these 48 are the retailer’s biggest suppliers which equates to nearly 60% of Woolworths’ food production.

“Prevention of food loss and waste is one of the powerful means to strengthen our food systems and has always been a key focus in our Good Business Journey (GBJ) including our Inclusive Justice Initiative (IJI), as it addresses both the injustice of food being wasted as well as the environmental impacts of wasting resources like water and energy in the production and growth of the food,” says Latiefa Behardien, Woolworths Foods chief technology and sustainability officer.

She adds, “Last year, the CSIR confirmed that on a yearly basis 10.4 million tons of edible food goes to waste in South Africa yet 14.3 million people have limited access to food. Iniquitous statistics that call for a collective effort to make a meaningful impact.”

“Food waste occurs at all stages of the supply chain, so we are investing most of our efforts at the supplier level and encouraging our suppliers to commit to South Africa’s Voluntary Food Loss and Waste agreement.”

Surplus food donations

From an in-store food waste perspective, Woolworths notes that it has for over 30 been donating its surplus food that is past its ‘sell by date’ but not past its ‘use by date’ to charities directly from its stores across the country. Over the last financial year these donations equated to over 15,000 tons of food valued at R786,456,235.

The retailer also partners with FoodForward SA and provides funding to support its vision to recover edible surplus food and distribute it to community organisations in both urban and rural areas.

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