Hear how Nestlé revised processes to maximise food surplus redistribution
Since 2016, Nestlé UK & Ireland (UK&I) has reduced its operational food waste by 41%. Working in partnership with Company Shop and its social enterprise, Community Shop, as well as non-profit organisations FareShare, FoodCloud and Sweet Dreams, Nestlé UK&I redistributed the equivalent of 2.6 million meals throughout 2020.
In this guest blog we asked Andrew Griffiths, Head of Value Chain Sustainability at Nestlé, to share his experience of the steps they went through to revise their processes and systems and better embed redistribution.
What was the motivation for you to revise how you approached redistribution?
We recognise the social, environmental, and economic value of preventing and redistributing surplus food and have been working on food waste reduction and food surplus redistribution for many years.
We want to ensure that good quality, edible food doesn’t go to waste as this has a significant impact in terms of our emissions and resource use. Ideally this food should go to its intended purpose of being sold or used to support those that need it.
When we began to revise our approach, we felt we had effective redistribution processes in place but knew that more could be done.
What steps did you need to take to map and revise your processes?
We worked with our redistribution partners in the UK&I, predominantly Company Shop and FareShare, as well as resource use experts WRAP to codevelop a waste audit process. The idea was to build on the principles we have used previously on other issues such energy and water. These principles were to review the data, audit our processes, identify opportunities, and deliver improvements.
We drew on external and internal expertise to map all data, understand the level of waste, where it sat across our operations and what the principal issues causing it were. We used this information to prioritise our focus and then conducted physical audits, such as walking the production line, to see what was causing the waste.
Which departments needed to be involved and what were their roles in the project?
We had put in place a strong cross-functional team to work on the project. Our procurement team led the work, and they were supported by financial controllers at each site. They were able to demonstrate the financial benefits of this work, in terms of better management of inputs and costs, as well as achieving a financial return from some of our surplus. They were also able to recommend the best way to monitor and track the volume and types of food being redistributed.
We also had representation from Engineering and Operations. They looked at how we could improve our process from both a technical and people point of view, such as who has responsibility for surplus food on site and how and where surplus would be stored. We were also mindful of applying the food and drink material hierarchy, and stopping waste occurring in the first place.
The team also identified issues where the surplus wasn’t in a ‘redistribution ready’ state. Through revising our procedures, we were able to capture this surplus, finish and/or pack it and find redistribution channels.
How did you agree responsibilities and expectations between Nestle and your redistribution partner?
This was an evolutionary process. We shared accountability between ourselves and our redistribution partners and agreed a way of working.
As we looked at new opportunities, we worked with the redistributors to review the potential surplus we had, and whether they had the capability and capacity to handle it. This helped us to define and prioritise which redistributor received surplus in specific instances, across facilities or by type of surplus (eg. finished product, bulk ingredients etc). This allowed us to be clear on expectations and ways of doing business with our redistribution partners.
How did you measure whether revising your processes had been a success?
Our previous focus was that food surplus and waste was an individual KPI. As we revised our processes, we simplified our approach and began monitoring redistribution and waste within our efficiency improvement programme.
We agreed with our redistribution partners the information that they would provide to us. We felt that by having this data we would get an independent perspective of the social impact of our surplus and give employees a better understanding of why they should care, which could help further embed redistribution.
This allowed us to reposition redistribution communications, focussing on the number of people that are struggling to make ends meet and how our work could help to support these individuals and families. This approach has helped to drive engagement.
One of the real successes has been that we now have a process to continuously review our approach and whenever we’ve discovered new redistribution opportunities, we’ve been able revise our processes to stop the surplus at source and minimise it happening in the first place.
A lot of businesses think they’ve got this nailed and are in a good place; we did too, but no matter how good you think you are, the more you look the more you find!
About the author
Andy Griffiths is Head of Value Chain Sustainability for Nestlé’s UK&I businesses, responsible for the development and delivery of the Environmental Sustainability strategy both within the operation and across the value chain. He has worked at Nestlé UK&I for more than 20 years, originally in operational and engineering roles. He is both a chartered environmentalist and IEMA fellow, as well as a chartered engineer (IET). He is focussed on bringing together the engineering expertise, operational experience and environmental insights of the organisation alongside collaborative partnerships with academia and key delivery partners, to develop and implement robust and effective sustainability programmes. Andy is a member of WRAP’s Courtauld steering group, focussed on driving resource efficiency and reducing food loss and waste. He previously chaired WRAP’s Surplus Redistribution working group.