Global food waste set to rise a third by 2030 without ‘aggressive’ action

The amount of food wasted each year worldwide is set to rise by a third by 2030 without "urgent and aggressive" action from nations and corporates.

It is claimed that collaborations to tackle the key drivers of food waste could reduce the amount of annual food loss by $700bn by 2030

It is claimed that collaborations to tackle the key drivers of food waste could reduce the amount of annual food loss by $700bn by 2030

That is the key conclusion of a damning new report from Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which warns that the current approach to the food waste issue is too weak and fragmented to deliver on the United Nation’s aim of halving food waste by 2030, as outlined in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3.

Currently, around 1.6 billion tonnes of food worth approximately $1.2trn goes to waste each year, representing about one-third of the food produced globally by weight, according to BCG.

The consultancy predicts that by 2030, the scale of the problem will grow to a point where 66 tonnes of food will be wasted each second, with 2.1 billion tonnes, worth $1.5trn, sent to landfill annually. 

Published on Monday (20 August), the report calls on global corporates and governments to collaborate with consumers, NGOs and farmers to tackle the key drivers of the food waste problem – a move it claims could reduce the amount of annual food loss by $700bn by 2030.

The paper also suggests that an ecolabel, similar to those used by fair trade certifications, should be created in order to encourage customers to buy from companies that have committed to reducing their waste outputs.

While many stakeholders have a part to play in combating food loss and waste, BCG partner and report co-author Shalini Unnikrishnan said the role of business is “perhaps the most critical”.

“Companies are involved in every aspect of the food supply chain, from production through to consumption, and as a result, their decisions and actions have an outsized impact,” Unnikrishnan said. “At the same time, they have deep expertise, insight on potential solutions, and the money to make those solutions happen - which can ultimately help their bottom lines.”

The report identifies 13 initiatives, accounting for more than 70 actions, that businesses can take to address waste issues at every level of their supply chain. These include advocating for reforms to regulations and tax policies, using technology to develop KPIs and processes that minimise waste and investing in supply chain infrastructure improvements.

Key drivers

For businesses and nations to alter the trajectory of the global food waste pattern, BCG concludes that they must address the five largest drivers of the problem, with the largest being a lack of awareness of the issue among consumers.

Indeed, analysis of food waste data has consistently shown that the majority of the UK’s food waste mountain comes from households, which collectively produced more than half of the nation’s 14.3 million-tonne output last year.

The report concludes that if a “major effort” to increase consumer awareness of the problem was made - with retailers, restaurants, caterers and hoteliers moving to guide their customers on which options minimise waste - $260bn worth of food could be saved each year. For this saving to be realised, retailers would additionally have to eliminate promotional offers that drive excess purchasing, the report notes.

Other key drivers listed in the report include inadequate supply chain infrastructure; supply chain inefficiency; a lack of collaboration across the food value chain and a poor policy environment. Collective action on all five key drivers could reduce the dollar value of annual food loss by $700bn, BCG claims. 

The report comes shortly after research from Champions 12.3, the coalition of government, business and civil society leaders which aims to accelerate progress towards halving global food waste by 2030, found that companies could generate up to $14 of financial returns for every $1 spent on food waste mitigation.

Sarah George


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