The Problem: According to recent estimates, 32% of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted. Economically, food loss and waste represent a wasted investment that can reduce farmers’ and businesses’ incomes and increase consumers’ expenses. Food loss and waste also represents a missed opportunity to mitigate environmental impacts and resource use from food chains, as it represents an increase in GHG emissions and a waste of precious resources like water and land.
The Solution: Reducing food loss and waste can help close the yield gap between food available today and food needed to feed 9.6 billion people in 2050. Besides improving food security, it can also reduce environmental impacts while increasing operational efficiency.
What is food loss and waste? “Food loss and waste” refers to the edible parts of plants and animals that are produced or harvested for human consumption but that are not ultimately consumed by people.
It’s cost effective. Identifying and reducing loss and waste nodes along the value chain will yield significant efficiencies and financial benefits – both due to reduced purchase volumes and reduced waste disposal costs.
It can reduce the risk of regulatory uncertainty. Companies can be ahead of the curve when new regulations to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfills are introduced.
It’s a new business opportunity. Companies that can provide solutions to reduce food losses in the field, food waste at the processing level or offer safe, longer-lasting foods will be able to capitalize on this market opportunity.
It’s good for your brand. Food-waste reduction efforts will have a consumer focus. Education campaigns that inform consumers how to save money through more responsible purchasing and consumption can help strengthen a company’s brand image.
An example. Unilever is leading the United Against Waste coalition in the UK with customers like Sodexo, 3663 and Whitbread. Unilever helps chefs and cooks reduce waste by up to 20%, corresponding to a potential savings of nearly 368 tons of food waste annually.
Establish a multi-stakeholder group on food loss and waste reduction comprising companies and key organizations to:
Feed into the development of a Food Loss and Waste Measurement Protocol.
Raise awareness and share best practices.
Support the development of company/sector-wide food loss and waste reduction action plans.
Individual companies/coalition of companies to implement programs that include:
Measurement of where and by how much food loss and waste happens in the value chain.
Identification of primary nodes of loss and waste among supply chains.
Definition of reduction targets.
Identification and implementation of common solutions that can be adapted and scaled.
Regulations. Adoption of new policies on food specific issues (e.g., food safety, waste management).
Finance. Public investment in key infrastructure needed to store, transport and distribute food.
Measurement. Developing a global standard for measuring food loss and waste for countries and companies.
Awareness and education. Farmer training to reduce food lost at the field level and consumer education to reduce food wasted at the consumption level.
Research. Increase in research investment to reduce post-harvest losses and increase food quality in developing countries.
A Food Loss and Waste Protocol
WRI, in partnership with the FAO, UNEP, WBCSD and others, is developing a global standard for measuring food loss and waste. This protocol will help countries and companies estimate how much food is lost and wasted, identify where the loss and waste occur, take effective action to reduce food loss and waste within their respective spheres of influence, set targets and measure performance against them. More information is available here.