The moral dilemma of supermarket waste

These days, debates are meaningless. Brexit proved that; by the time we were calling for a discussion on the subject, the referendum was cast and we were out of Europe, a decision that we are now regretting, and a situation that has yet to yield a single benefit. Sure, you can argue that a few potential benefits are starting to emerge but they are trivial when compared to the financial loss of leaving the world’s largest trading bloc.

Brexit is just one by product of how we think now, about how a lack of debate leading to consensus can have disastrous consequences. The Government have been demonstrating this in spades recently – the chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng came up with the plan to reduce tax for high earners all by himself and didn’t even discuss it with his friend and prime minister, Liz Truss, while she in turn keeps saying that she is convinced that she is right, rather than we.

This level of arrogance, which gives the appearance that they think they are much cleverer than us, leads to a further erosion in Britain’s wealth, and only benefits the foreign dollar holders now piling back into London property that they can buy for a third less than two years ago, as the pound tanks.

The problem is, everyone puts themselves at one extreme or the other and simply digs their heels in as soon as anyone attacks their point of view. However, there is a real debate going on right now where occupying either pole of the argument is an uncomfortable place to be, maybe not financially, but certainly morally.

Should shareholder value come before quality of life?

The food waste charity Fareshare has reported a fall in surplus food donations from supermarkets of 200 tonnes a month over the last few months, at exactly the time that its service are more desperately needed than ever.

This is happening because supermarkets are trying to do the right thing – keeping prices low for their customers. And they able to do this because they are wasting less food. Technology is now able to improve retailers’ inventory management by identifying inefficiencies in all the processes that lead to waste, principally shelf overstocks and food at or near sell by date that could be relabelled and repriced for sale. And customers are contributing by looking harder for bargains.

Is waste a crying shame or a margin killer?

Supermarkets will of course continue to create waste and are all committed to supplying it to charities rather than see it end up in landfill as well as watch their environmental reputations take a hit, but their focus on profit and shareholder value has always been their first priority.

For my own part, I want the supermarkets to give even more food to food banks but should they really be the first line of defence in a crisis? Is it not the responsibility of the Government to protect the most vulnerable in society. Liz Truss says she will do that, even while talking about shrinking the size of the state and cutting back on public services to pay for the huge debts we continue to rack up. So, more mixed messages that make it even harder to take a position, let aloe come up with a solution.

Where do you stand?

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