Giulia Magnani Warwick - 01/10/2018
This week we offer a further example of how sustainable startups can solve the environmental issues our world is faced with today.
We spoke to Tessa Clarke, co-founder of OLIO- the food sharing revolution.
She told us about how OLIO aims at resolving one of the biggest issues our world is faced with today: food waste.
OLIO has been founded in January 2016 and as of now has more than 600,000 users worldwide. It is looking to grow further and has just recently closed a Series A funding round.
What issue is OLIO tackling and how is it resolving it?
We exist to tackle the problem of food waste, and specifically in the home and local community.
Globally, a third of all of the food produced is thrown away. Meanwhile 800 million people go to bed hungry each night, not to mention the devastating environmental impact of food waste, being the third largest cause of climate change. What few people realise is that in countries such as the UK, US, Western Europe, well over half of all food waste takes place within the home.
We offer a very simple solution to this: we use mobile technology to connect neighbors with one another so that they can share unwanted food.
Whenever someone has leftover food products that are still good to eat, all they have to do is upload a picture of them on the app, and neighbors will immediately receive an alert of their availability. If someone wants them, they then notify their interest and pick them up. The actual sharing takes place on the doorstep but the app is actually connecting people and businesses within their local communities.
What do you believe is the biggest factor leading to huge amounts of food waste?
Sadly food waste occurs along the whole supply chain. However, over half of it takes place within the home. We never used to waste food in the way that we do today. It’s very much a modern day phenomenon. I believe that it partly has to do with the fact that we now live in very small units. We are no longer part of large extended families and local communities with whom we can share our food with. On top of this, we lead very unpredictable lives, which makes it hard to perfectly balance supply and demand, especially when you live alone, and buying small quantities of food is almost impossible.
Also, I don’t think we value food as much as we used to. We spend much less of our income on food than we’ve ever have and we don’t necessarily understand the time and resources that have been used to produce it.
We’ve also lost our ability of cooking creatively using leftovers, and meal planning is quite a rare habit. I don’t think there’s a single reason, it’s a whole combination of factors.
Do you believe society is improving its attitude towards such a delicate matter?
Currently, there are both positives and negatives.
If we look at the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 it clearly states that the aim is to reduce food waste by half by 2030.However, Boston Consulting group, just recently issued a report on the status of food waste globally, and they are forecasting that food waste will increase by one third by 2030.
So, clearly we are on the wrong trajectory.
Having said that, in the past two years that we have been operating, we have seen the level of awareness increase dramatically, and we are now finding it much easier to attract OLIO users: we have businesses reaching out to us asking how we can help them solve the issue of food waste in a way that had never happened in the early days. I guess this is mainly due to the fact that the amount of media coverage, social media conversation is now greater than it has ever been.
What do you believe is the biggest drive incentivizing people to use OLIO and diminish food waste?
Our users tell us that when they first hear about OLIO they are incredibly excited by our mission and are happy to participate in solving such a delicate problem.
However, once they’ve used the app, what they usually value, is getting to know their neighbor and their local community.
We have thousands of incredibly heartwarming stories that have been shared with us about relationships and friendships being formed and gestures of kindness being exchanged. We believe that people are much more motivated by positivity, rather than negativity and our users value and love all of the positive things that come with using OLIO.
Do you collaborate with other social enterprises?
Collaboration and sharing are in our DNA and so yes, we have formed hundreds of partnerships, ranging from small local charities all the way to large national chains.
We collaborate very closely to anyone else, who is in the food waste, food redistribution space.
What do you value the most about what you’ve created?
The community we have created, the impact we are having, and, of course, my relationship with my co-founder Sasha. These are the three things that make OLIO incredibly special to me, personally.
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