Food Waste Action Week: OLIO

Featuring Anne-Charlotte, Head of Partnerships and Special Projects

This feature is created in partnership with ENSIGHT

OLIO believe that small actions lead to big change. 3 million people, in 54 countries, agree. OLIO connects neighbours with each other and local businesses via an app - so that surplus food and goods can be shared, and not thrown away. So far, almost 10 million portions of food have been shared, and they’re only just getting started. 

One third of food produced around the world is wasted each year1. The UK’s first ever Food Waste Action Week started on 1st March 2021, pioneered by WRAP, with the goal of encouraging small actions towards big change. For example, if everyone in the UK stopped wasting bread at home for 1 year, it would be the equivalent to planting 5.3 million trees2. OLIO is spearheading this change.

We spoke to Anne-Charlotte, Head of Partnerships and Special Projects, who is currently based down in Mexico! She’s had a role that has changed massively with the business, from helping OLIO’s early growth to managing a plethora of cross-functional projects.

Sustainable businesses lay stones for a new path and a new stream of businesses. I would argue the future is sustainable, investing in it now is choosing to be a part of the future.

👉Quickfire Q: What does sustainability mean to you? 

That’s a hard question to answer. I think sustainability is circularity, as well as responsible and considerate usage of resources. 

👉 Tell me more about your values as a business, how did you choose these? 

Towards the end of the first year of operation, we had a workshop with all founding team members. The outcome of the workshop was the following values: 





How are you making sure you’re progressing towards them internally? 

Twice a year we have employee performance reviews. We use a 360° review system to assess each team member. Every employee must give feedback to all their colleagues and rate them on how well they are each performing against our 4 company values.

👉 How do you measure the impact you create? 

We facilitate food redistribution and therefore know the number of food portions (over ten million to date!!) that we have saved from waste. From this, we can calculate the estimated litres of water, carbon emissions (kg) and the equivalent number of trees planted. To do this we used figures from WRAP and did it in-house.

💥  ENSIGHT’s INSIGHT: There is nothing wrong with researching data on your product and doing your impact calculations DIY. Word of warning, however: always show your methodology and references. 

Greenwashing can be a real issue - do you have any advice against it? 

I think it’s all about the values and ethics of what you are trying to achieve. If you genuinely want to be sustainable then that’s the first step against greenwashing. Being a sustainable business should mean that every business decision is taken with sustainability in mind. In some ways, we’re all Sustainability Officers here at OLIO. 

Do you have a message for businesses who want to get involved with your growing initiative? 

Just get in touch! Our Food Waste Hero model can facilitate the redistribution of food surplus for all types of food operations.

👉 Have you seen any direct financial returns from investing in impact metrics?

We’re now partnering nationally with Tesco, and without impact metrics and clear information, I doubt we would have partnered up. 

That’s great. It shows what focusing financially on sustainability can do. 

Sustainable businesses lay stones for a new path and a new stream of businesses. I would argue the future is sustainable, investing in it now is choosing to be a part of the future.

👉 How have OLIO built such an amazing team? 

Everyone recruited here at OLIO is very strongly mission-aligned and cares about the output of their work. It makes for a super passionate team. 

We’re also a remote-first company. We have some places where we co-work but these are pretty informal. We also have unlimited holiday days here at OLIO. There is a huge amount of trust between team members and it’s amazing to be assessed on deliverables rather than time spent behind a desk/amount of holidays taken. 

What sort of benefits have you seen with this sort of business structure? 

We are all a lot more productive. OLIO really accommodates for your life. Having the possibility of remote working also means you expand the potential for diversity within your company which ultimately drives success. The only downside is that remote working can perhaps come at the expense of team culture in a traditional sense but we have a very active social committee. 

👉 What are your biggest learnings at OLIO?

There’s so much...I’ve learnt so much about pioneering new ways of doing business - how to lay the groundworks with something completely different. And I honestly just keep learning here!

👉 Looking to the Future…

Anywhere that you want to keep improving on at OLIO?

We are primarily a remote-first company, but on rare occasions, we get together. I think we could find a way to be more sustainable with our get-togethers, although we are very far from wasteful. 

Finally… What’s next?

We’ve just finished the prototype built of a food insecurity predictive map in partnerships with the University of Nottingham’s N/LAB. We are now looking for further funding to help develop a tool for the public sector to address food insecurity and measure programmes they deploy to mitigate the impacts of this issue. Pre Covid, 8.4 million individuals were estimated to suffer from food insecurity in the UK.

What’s the best way for readers to keep up-to-date with your progress/company? 

Download the app and join the OLIO community

💥 Impact Resources 💥

  1. Use a 360° review system annually/bi-annually to understand how well your business is doing relative to your pillars

  2. Use OLIO to limit food waste as a business 

  3. Look at the Sustainable Development Goals (perhaps to even use as some of your business pillars!)

  4. Apply for Innovate UK grants if you fit the criteria

What’s next?

This feature is created in partnership with ENSIGHT