That is the key talking point from the latest Champions 12.3 coalition report “the business case for reducing food loss and waste”, which highlights that a financial business case for combatting food waste issues is now present in society.

“When you look at the global situation, there are strong social and environmental reasons to reduce food waste, and now there is an economic case as well,” Champions 12.3 chairman and Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis said. “Anyone who runs a business knows that waste is a drain of money and resources and what we wanted to do at Champions 12.3 was set out clearly the investment case.

“There are still too many within business and within government who are unaware or unsure of the impact that they can have by reducing food waste. The findings of this report could not be clearer, 99% of businesses had a positive return on their actions to combat food loss and waste. In other words, reducing food waste is a real business opportunity.”

Champions 12.3 was introduced in Davos in January 2016 to accelerate progress towards UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 – halving food waste per capita and reducing food losses by 2030. The coalition is made up of more than 30 government, business and civil society leaders from across the world, including Nestle chief executive Paul Bulcke, former WRAP chief executive Liz Goodwin and Unilever’s chief executive Paul Polman.

According to the report, financial expenditure acts as one of the main barriers preventing businesses from actively seeking to reduce food waste, which amounts to $940bn in global economic losses annually. By collecting data from companies, as well as profiling large-scale movements in the UK, the report hopes to finally create an economic case to invest in food waste mitigation.

The report cites that combatting food loss and waste is a “challenge of epic proportions” and that companies often lose the associated costs of food waste as it is “buried in operational budgets”. Rethinking the relationship to food waste can actually improve stakeholder and investor relations up and down the business supply chain, the report notes.

The latest Champions report analysed data from more 1,200 business sites across 17 countries and more than 700 companies across a range of sectors. The report found that for each dollar invested into food waste reduction methods, the average company site generated a $14 return.

Triple win

Specifically, the report noted that the UK’s nationwide initiative to reduce food waste, launched in 2007, achieved an “astounding” 21% reduction in household food waste by 2012. Through WRAP’s involvement with the “Love Food Hate Waste” media campaign, more than £26m was spent over a five-year period. Over the same period, households generated £6.5bn in savings which, on top of the £86m savings in local authority expenditure, created a £250 return for each £1 invested.

The report noted that some household savings were generated through a reduction in spending, and that consumer demand on retailers to educate on how money can be saved led to lower food-related expenditure. This, surprisingly, still saw private sectors firms generate stable financial streams from consumers through a population growth during the timeframe.

Examples of the “triple win” potential were evident in the UK. Alongside financial savings, the Love Food Hate Waste campaign also avoided 3.4m tonnes of carbon emissions annually, saved 1bn m3 of water and avoided the use of 430,000 hectares of land annually. Considering that food waste is responsible for an estimated 8% of global emissions, the environmental benefits appear significant.

With the report highlighting the business case for tackling food waste, Champions 12.3 has called on governments and companies to follow the “target, measure and act” mantra of the coalition to accelerate efforts.

Specifically, the report calls on companies to adopt a 50% reduction target for 2030, which would align them with target 12.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In an exclusive interview with edie, Champions 12.3 chairman Lewis claimed that retailers were showing a “growing appetite” to collaborate to tackle food waste, but still needed to provide clearer information and deliver better reporting standards to drive change.

edie’s Resource Management Month

March is edie’s Resource Management Month, with a series of exclusive interviews, features and podcasts running throughout the month to drill down on the most effective ways of driving a resource revolution.

From recycling and recovery to closed-loop solutions, our Resource Management Month will explore the various ways businesses can help to deliver an economy that has moved away from ‘take, make, waste’ to a circular economy-based model based on resource efficiency, re-use and redistribution.

Read all of our resource management content here.

Matt Mace

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