With Food Halls selling everything from exotic fruit,, handcrafted patisserie and sparkling seafood to premium cuts of meat, busy production kitchens and restaurants, Harrods is a master purveyor of high-quality food and fine dining. Added to this a staff canteen serving a large number of store employees, the volume of food activity on a typical day at the historic luxury store is significant.
As part of its zero waste to landfill policy, Harrods identified reducing food waste as a priority, and has taken decisive steps to close the loop on food waste, rapidly building momentum on its existing efforts.
“We aim to encourage responsible food consumption and management while striving to reduce waste and increase recycling,” explains Ankita Patel, Corporate Responsibility Manager at Harrods. “Adopting a circular approach to tackling waste food is part of our journey to becoming a more sustainable business, and ensuring that we operate at our best.”
Harrods had already developed a closed loop recycling scheme for used cooking oil, partnering
with a waste management specialist to convert the oil into energy and biofuel. In 2018, it extended this
circular approach to food waste, separating all major food waste streams including packaged and nonpackaged food from the Food Halls, waste from the production kitchens, waste from the restaurants and leftovers from meal servings and other surplus food.
Harrods identified opportunities to prevent waste and close the loop, wherever possible.
Collaboration was central to this effort, with the retailer engaging employees across the business, running trials in its production kitchens, and identifying local food redistribution partners. Harrods continued to stand firm on food waste despite the Covid-19 pandemic, which has forced three store closures to date. Importantly, with a firm focus on redistributing edible surplus food as a first priority, the company partnered with local food charities including the Felix Project to ensure that any surplus reaches those who need it most. Harrods also established a relationship and partnered with local food bank the Albrighton Community Centre, inviting the centre’s volunteers to collect food from the store on a daily basis and distribute it to households in the community which are in need of help.
During the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns, the luxury retailer has supported multiple food banks, charities and hospitals with food, clothing and care package donations.
Across the business, food is utilised in its productions kitchens before it becomes waste. Harrods is uniquely positioned in that regard as a department store that has fully operating kitchens on its premises that enable the chefs to use up products that would otherwise become waste. Any remaining food that cannot be redistributed is sent to waste management partner Biogen through partner Veolia for anaerobic digestion, the most environmentally sustainable solution. The waste food is converted into methane for electricity production, with any leftover organic material used as a natural fertiliser for crops in Hertfordshire and urban farms in London. From the outset of its consolidated food waste reduction programme, Harrods achieved zero food waste contamination in just three months. And it’s a change that would not have been possible without the wholehearted participation of its employees.
In 2020, the company recycled 178.60 tonnes of food waste.
“Our teams have been fantastic at adapting to this change, and we see visible evidence of behaviour change every day,” says Patel. “Employees are consciously separating food from its wrapping so it can be put into the correct recycling stream, and what’s more, they’re passionate about championing our circular approach to food.”