Reducing Food Waste: The Overwhelming Case For Change

You may know that the scale of food wasted day in day out around the world is massive. But let’s consider a few points:

• One third of all food produced is lost or wasted from farm to fork according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
• Food loss and waste is responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions – six times more than the global aviation sector
• Whilst one in nine people remain malnourished, we use land that would equal the size of China to grow food that is lost or thrown away
• And at $940 billion annually, food loss and waste is more than the entire GDP of Indonesia.

I find this difficult to stomach, but we must if we are to realise the huge consequences this has for humans and our beautiful planet.

Clearly the price tag associated with food loss and waste is a cost we cannot afford to ignore. But what if reducing food waste brought more benefits than it costs to implement? Wouldn’t that be helpful?

This was the question we had to investigate for our recent report – the “Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste” which we did with the World Resources Institute (WRI) for the Champions 12.3 group.

The good news? The answer was a resounding YES.

Using real-life data from more than 1,400 sites across 700 companies throughout 17 countries, the report shows how food waste reduction activity around the world reduces environmental impact and yields strong financial benefits. With a median return on investment for these businesses of 14:1, it shouldn’t be a hard sell – it’s now time for other companies, cities and countries to sit up and take notice.

So tackling food waste is not only possible, but it makes financial sense. And just to add in for good measure, we’ve thrown in a brief toolkit for action. We need everyone to target, measure, and act.

Through our own experiences of working across the food sector with companies in the UK, we know that working together via a voluntary agreement can drive change and deliver greater benefits.

Just look at the collective action by UK businesses involved in the Hospitality and Food Service Agreement – it saved the hospitality and food service sector £67 million from 2012 – 2015, and reduced food and packaging waste by 11%, more than twice the target of 5%.

Or look at Courtauld Commitment 3 – that delivered over £100 million business savings by reducing food waste in manufacturing and retail, and optimising packaging. Working with governments, signatories and consumers we are now driving forward further change with the ambitious Courtauld 2025 agreement.

There is no magic solution; tackling food waste is a complex challenge. What the Business Case report shows is that it can be done and those who are willing to take on the challenge, are rewarded.

The status quo is no longer tenable. We owe it to our world, and the next generation, to tackle food waste head on and sow a sustainable future. This means in our own homes as well as in the businesses we work with and who we work for.

With the far-reaching social, environmental, and economic costs caused by the level of food we waste, we can’t afford to wait until tomorrow to act – we need to do it today. After all, if we are to meet the ambition of halving food waste by 2030- as agreed by countries around the world as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we need to get a move on.
The time to act is now – so what are we waiting for?

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