Over-using natural resources and under-using products through waste threaten nature and biodiversity.
What’s going on?
Over-exploitation of the natural resources on which the food supply chain depends is caused by – and occurs in – a variety of ways that are closely interconnected.
Downstream, for example, there is the issue of over-consumption and food waste, that can inflate demand for natural resources above what is actually needed.
Upstream, meanwhile, there is the issue of taking more natural resources than is needed to satisfy inflated demand, by using unsustainable extraction practices – overfishing is a powerful example of this.
Unsustainable production and consumption of food has been described as “one of the biggest environmental threats to our planet”, making food waste a significant problem.[i]
Substantial amounts of food produced but not eaten by humans has serious negative impacts environmentally, socially and economically – estimates suggest that 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food that is not consumed.[ii]
Food waste is one of the largest contributors to global climate change. Growing, processing, and transporting food uses significant resources. If food is wasted, these resources are wasted too.[iii]
Food waste can occur at every stage of the food supply chain: production, processing, retail, and consumption. While many food retailers are now working to help deduce this form of waste, greater efforts are now needed.
Unsustainable extraction practices are also a major threat.
Fishing, for example, is one of the most significant drivers of declines in ocean wildlife populations.
While catching fish is not inherently bad for the ocean, it has a negative impact on biodiversity when vessels catch fish faster than stocks can replenish – overfishing, which creates an imbalance that can erode the ecosystem and lead to a loss of other important marine life, including vulnerable species.
Overfishing is closely tied to ‘bycatch’ – the capture of unwanted sea life while fishing for a different species. Though unavoidable in some mixed fisheries, bycatch can be a serious marine threat when it exceeds bycatch limits, causing needless fish loss along with the loss of other creatures such as sea turtles and cetaceans.
- The UK’s largest supermarkets throw away enough food for 190 million meals each year.[vi]
- Nearly one third of fish stocks are overfished and one third of freshwater fish species assessed are considered threatened. [ix]
- Each year, the UK wastes enough food to fill Wembley Stadium eight times over.[viii]
- In 2020, an estimated 258,096 tonnes of unsold food were disposed of by supermarkets in the UK.[vii]
Get nature positive
Retailers have an important role to play as educators in the battle to reduce food waste.
Complex food labelling is a major driver of waste, for example. Many consumers are still confused about what ‘use by’, ‘best before’ and ‘sell by’ dates mean, resulting in increased food disposal. More education and greater awareness is needed.[iv]
Product specifications set by retailers are another issue – the aesthetic expectations of what fresh fruit and vegetables should look like are just one example. According to one study, 25% of apples, 20% of onions and 13% of potatoes grown in the UK are wasted on cosmetic grounds.[v]
Inspired by steps retail businesses are already taking, we’ve compiled suggested actions to help you on your journey to getting nature positive.
Explore the actions your business can take to join the journey to nature positivity.