Target, measure, act: Global scale-up needed to accelerate food waste reduction

One year on from the establishment of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), nations and businesses have been urged to target, measure and reduce food waste in line with Goal 12.3, which calls for food waste to be halved by 2030.

A new publication, released on behalf of the Champions 12.3 coalition to tackle food waste, has called on nations and the private sector to mobilise and accelerate food waste reductions through ambitious target setting, concentrated data collection systems and inspiring people to act for the cause.

The report analyses the efforts made by nations and leading-businesses to reduce the $940bn economic losses caused by food waste. With food waste accounting for 8% of global emissions, the Champions 12.3 coalition has pooled resources from leading companies in order to promote best practice across the globe.

Chaired by Tesco’s chief executive Dave Lewis, with support from Unilever’s chief executive Paul Polman, Nestlé’s chief executive Paul Bulcke and members from WRAP, WWF, the Consumer Goods Forum and others, Champions 12.3 has outlined how reducing food waste provides a “historic opportunity” to quantify food loss within boarders, operations and supply chains in order to prevent waste and help feed a population expected to reach nine billion by 2050.

Tesco’s chief executive Dave Lewis said: “It is vital that organisations begin measuring food waste, and set reduction targets. In 2013, Tesco became the first – and to date – only UK retailer to publish its food waste data. It was a move that was instrumental in showing us where we needed to focus our efforts.

“Once we identified the problems areas we knew where to act. By measuring food waste, setting targets and building action plans, organizations are able to manage food waste as they would other business critical processes.”

On top of Tesco’s achievements, which also includes the firm’s work with the FareShare scheme to pass on unsold food to local charities, the report also highlights the efforts made by WRAP to reduce “one of the most extensive estimates of country-level food waste in the world” in the UK.

Country harvest

The report notes that other nations should strive to introduce ambitious reduction targets, much like WRAP has done with its voluntary Courtauld Commitment, which tasks brands to cut food and drink waste and the associated carbon emissions by one fifth by 2025.

With the report also praising global initiatives such as the Food Loss and Waste (FLW) standard – as well as France and Italy’s national legislative commitments to reduce wastage – Champions 12.3 hopes that by placing the spotlight on successful initiatives, others will begin to act.

The report calls on every country, every major city and every company that deals with food supply chains to set targets consistent with the aims of the SDGs to “ensure sufficient attention and focus”.

Nestlé’s chief executive Paul Bulcke added: “Momentum is growing toward achieving Sustainable Development Goal Target 12.3. I am convinced that by working together, we can accelerate efforts and develop effective solutions to help reduce food loss and waste globally. Nestlé will play its part. Bold action is what matters, and we are already committed to achieve zero waste for disposal in our sites by 2020.”

Spinning plates

As well as communicating with suppliers and re-distributing food, the report offers up numerous ways that companies can reduce food waste. Behaviour change campaigns should be launched to educate consumers, while packaging should be re-developed to tailor for smaller portions. For unavoidable food waste, anaerobic digestion plants serve as a means to use the waste to generate biogas, the report suggests.

The use of anaerobic digestion to tackle food waste could soon be implemented in London. With Mayor Sadiq Khan urged to turn his attention to food waste, food waste recycling company Bio Collectors has called on London boroughs to develop the “circular economy of food” in order to rejuvenate plateauing recycling rates and boost activity in surrounding anaerobic digestion (AD) plants.

Behaviour change is also being targeted in the city, after WRAP launched a new London-wide initiative that aims to prevent food waste in the capital as well as promoting best practice measures for recycling unavoidable food waste.

Matt Mace

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