World Business Council issues call to arms for private sector to tackle food waste

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has issued a rallying call for businesses to address challenges relating to nutrition and sustainable food production, with a specific call for cross-sector collaboration.

While companies are embracing new sustainability programmes orientated towards food waste and production, the WBCSD told delegates at the EAT conference in Stockholm on Tuesday (13 June) that more science-based methodologies needed to be introduced as part of a cross-sector movement to account for the entire value chain of food production.

“Almost all the world’s food comes from private sources, including many very small companies and producers,” the WBCSD’s managing director of food solutions Alison Cairns said. “We all need to do much more to address the big issues to accelerate sustainably produced food,”

“This requires a more positive spirit of cross-sector collaboration than we may have seen in the past, and a readiness for all parties in the sector to work together. The past focus on food productivity alone is giving way to concerns over better nutrition, diet and health for people around the world, and also to more sustainable ways of producing food which truly values our natural resources.”

Cairns noted that one of the main priorities is to reduce food waste, which generates $940bn in global economic losses annually. If the amount of food lost throughout the value chain were a country it would be the third-highest emitting nation behind the US and China.

Food production also contributes negatively to climate change. Farming is responsible for around two-thirds of global water consumption, while one-third of arable land is used for farming. Around one-seventh of all emissions are linked to meat production alone.


WBCSD is taking steps to launch collaborative efforts in this area. The Council’s Food Reform for Sustainability and Health (FReSH) was launched in January 2017, with companies such as Kellogg’s, Bayer, Danone and Unilever all signing on. The platform is designed to “accelerate transformational change in global food systems”.

Last week, FReSH member Unilever launched its Sustainable Nutrition Manifesto, which outlines how governments, businesses and consumers need to recreate food systems to reduce the strains of food waste and finite resources. WBCSD is also working on a new Commission, set up by EAT and the Lancet, to establish science-based targets on nutrition.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie