Why reducing food waste could be more impactful than wind turbines

In the lead up to COP26 this year, we’ll be showcasing each of the Tech For Our Planet startups. In an interview with OLIO’s CEO,Tessa Clarke, we learn how reducing food waste could be one of the most impactful solutions to reversing global warming.

1. What is your startup's mission and why did you embark on this venture?

OLIO’s mission is to reduce food waste in the home, and we will do this:

1. By leveraging digital technology

2. Underpinned by community

3. At scale

4. Profitably

Our ambition for OLIO is unashamedly bold - because the world needs it to be. By 2030 – to coincide with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals - we want one billion OLIOers connecting to share the world’s most precious resources, rather than throw them away.

We want to dramatically reduce waste (food & non-food), for households & local businesses. Guide individuals in their journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle and encourage hyper-local shopping of homemade food and handmade crafts. Underpinned by millions of hyperlocal people to people sharing networks, and a sustainable business model.

2. What makes your startup stand out from the crowd?

OLIO is the only free sharing platform with 5 million users globally that has enabled the sharing of resources in 59 countries. 

We believe that small actions can lead to big change. Collectively – one rescued cupcake, carrot or bottle of lotion at a time – we can build a more sustainable future where our most precious resources are shared, not thrown away. To date we have enabled 32,000,000 portions of food to be shared which is the equivalent to 93.5 million car miles taken off the road or saving 4700 million liters of water from being wasted. 

3. How will your technology help to achieve netzero targets?

Project Drawdown, The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming places reducing food waste as the most impactful solution to reverse global warming. Reducing food waste is more impactful than wind turbines, solar panels, or electric cars.

OLIO helps individuals and companies reduce their food waste and adopt more sustainable habits.

4. What are your plans for the future?

To date OLIO has scaled seamlessly from a team of 2 to a team of 50. However our Series B represents a significant inflection point for the business, given the confluence of a serious capital injection and positive market forces. The core areas of focus over the next 12 months will be:

• Investing in product, both in terms of the core app and the Food Waste Heroes Programme so that we can have a truly world class product. This is a critical prerequisite for everything else that is to follow.

• Revisiting our brand messaging & positioning so that it better reflects our product proposition and lays the foundations for our ambition to become a global iconic sustainability brand.

• Formalising our playbook for international roll-out, and start rolling out to ~10 markets over the next 24 months.

• Investing in our people and culture to ensure we retain and develop the OLIO magic.

5. What are your biggest company highlights to date? 

We raised our seed round in October 2015 (£750k); our pre-Series A in December 2016 (£1m); our Series A in June 2018 (£4.5m), and closed a Series A follow-on in January 2020 (£4.915m). We closed our series B in August 2021 which comprised £25 million in primary investment and £6m in secondary investment.

Data highlights:

  • 4.7m sign-ups
  • 9m listings
  • 3k subscribed Supporters (the premium version of the app)
  • 14.8m goals selected
  • 32m portions of food shared; 5m non-food items
  • 80k+ volunteers
  • 102k followers on Facebook, 170k followers on Instagram, 21k on Twitter
  • Successful sharing activity in 59 countries
  • App available in English and Spanish

The Tech For Our Planet - Startup Showcase will showcase the leading digital solutions that can help us reach Net Zero. Tickets to the showcase can be obtained via the official COP26 website on 31st October.


Gemma Osei-Antwi
Digital Content Intern

Oct 29, 2021