The campaign group Feedback published a report in June 2018 entitled The food waste scorecard: an assessment of supermarket action to address food waste. The report ranked UK supermarkets based on publicly available information, mainly from their websites or news articles, to assess their efforts to tackle food waste in the industry.
The report measured supermarkets against the food use hierarchy. Feedback established key indicators for each facet of the food use hierarchy, which include reducing and preventing surplus food as a priority, followed by redistributing surplus food, recycling surplus food and finally the proper disposal of food waste. Supermarkets scored a point for each of the 32 key indicators successfully implemented.
Tesco scored a B rating overall and was ranked first out of the 10 supermarkets assessed in the report. Tesco scored highest on each of the steps in the food use hierarchy.
On reducing and preventing surplus food, Tesco was found to have implemented 12 of the 20 key indicators. Tesco was the first supermarket to sign up to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of halving food waste from farm to fork by 2030. The SDG is deemed by Feedback to be a more ambitious target than the UK’s national voluntary agreement (Courtauld 2025), to which all the UK supermarkets assessed in the report are signed up.
Tesco scored both available points for their monitoring of food waste reduction via the provision of publicly available food waste data and provision of a detailed breakdown of food waste data. Tesco was the first supermarket to publish third party audited food waste data. However, the report observed that Tesco has struggled to maintain a steady reduction; it’s target of zero in-store food waste has not been met.
Tesco was the only supermarket to score full points for reducing food waste in supply chains and was commended for its commitment to extend transparency to its own supply chain in terms of measuring food waste and for implementing initiatives to help suppliers reduce food waste.
The second step in the food use hierarchy is redistribution, which involves surplus food that is fit for human consumption being sent to charities and organisations that redistribute food. Tesco was found to have implemented 3 of the 4 key indicators and scored the maximum 3 points available for the quantity of food redistributed. Tesco was also applauded for significantly increasing the quantity of food redistributed to people in need and for donating 7,975 tonnes in 2017/18, representing a 40% increase on the previous year.
The food use hierarchy holds that food surplus unfit for human consumption should be used to feed animals. Tesco, along with Sainsbury’s and Iceland, was found to be one of the only UK supermarkets to send legally permissible food waste to animal feed. Tesco was recognised for fulfilling 2 of the 3 key indicators under the animal feed criteria.
The final step in the food use hierarchy is the disposal of inedible food waste. Most UK supermarkets have a zero waste to landfill commitment. Instead, large quantities of food suitable for human consumption is being sent to Anaerobic Digestion (AD) to be converted into energy. According to the Feedback report, AD should only be used to process food waste which is unsuitable for redistribution or animal feed. Tesco was found to be one of the few supermarkets which clearly ackmowledged that the use of an AD to process food waste is not a ‘reduction’ of waste in the same way as redistribution or animal feed. Tesco was recognised for fulfilling 2 of the 3 key indicators under the disposal criteria.
The report stated, "Producing our food costs our planet dearly, with Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) from agriculture, forestry and fisheries doubling over the past 50 years (FAO 2014) to nearly 20% of emissions resulting from human activity. Globally, around one third of all food produced is wasted (FAO 2011)". As Tesco scored highest in this report, this reference is for information only.