Food loss and waste costs businesses billions of dollars each year and it generates about 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for the carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten.
While many companies have set food waste reduction targets, there hasn’t been a uniform way to measure where and how much food is lost across operations — some consider food that goes to compost as waste; some companies don’t.
A new international standard, launched today at the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) Summit 2016, addresses this issue. According to its developers, including World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Consumer Goods Forum, the Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard (FLW Standard) will create a globally consistent framework for measuring and managing food waste.
“If the world is to seriously reduce food loss and waste, companies, countries and others need to measure it. Not many know how much food is lost or wasted, or where it occurs in their borders or supply chains,” said Craig Hanson, WRI global director of food, forests and water, on a call with reporters.
Hanson, who said global food loss and waste costs up to $940 billion in economic losses each year, compared the new standard to the GHG Protocol, which standardized the way companies and other organizations measure and report on their greenhouse gas emissions. WRI co-founded the GHG Protocol 15 years ago.
“This partnership is doing today to food loss and waste what the GHG protocol did for emissions more than a decade ago,” Hanson said.
The topic of food waste — and how to reduce it — is gaining momentum with governments and businesses committing to tackle the issue. Late last month Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced legislation to clarify dates on food labels and combat waste.
Several months earlier the US government set a goal to cut food waste in half by 2030 — a move widely supported by the retail, food and beverage industries, among others. At the time, Kellogg VP Kris Charles said his company supports the US’ first-ever national food waste reduction goal and is “committed to doing our part to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level, and to reduce food losses along the production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses by 2030.”
And last year, Unilever, Nestlé, Anheuser-Busch InBev and hundreds of other top food and drink companies, all members of the Consumer Goods Forum, committed to halve food waste within their operations by 2025, compared to a 2016 baseline.
But, according to the Consumer Goods Forum, which represents 400 of the global retailers and manufacturers, until now, CGF member companies had no uniform way to meet this goal. Now they can use the FLW standard to establish baselines and measure progress on waste reductions.
The FLW Standard defines “food” (see infographic): any processed, semi-processed or raw substance, including drink, intended for human consumption. This includes spoiled food as well. It also defines associated “inedible parts,” such as bones, rinds and pits, as well as “possible destinations” for food that isn’t consumed and inedible parts. This ranges from animal feed to wastewater treatment and landfills, which are a major source of methane emissions.
The standard allows businesses and governments to choose whether it measures both food and inedible parts in its reduction targets, as well as which destinations it will include within its scope. It also allows organizations to use a range of methods to quantify food waste. And, to ensure transparency, it requires organizations to ensure transparency, the FLW Standard requires entities to report on the quantification method used.
In a call with reporters, CGF member companies Tesco, a major UK retailer, and global food and beverage company Nestlé said they are both using the FLW Standard.
“Publishing data for our own operations has allowed us to identify food waste hot spots and tackle these,” said Mark Little, Tesco’s head of food waste reduction. “Also, being transparent about food waste has helped us raise the issue and engagement with customers, colleagues and supplies in tackling food waste, from farm to fork.”
Nestlé, which has committed to zero waste by 2020, says the FLW Standard is a valuable tool for to establishing a baselines and measuring progress. Said Pascal Greverath, Nestlé’s vice president for environmental sustainability: “It will help us secure our supply of raw materials, and also have a quality impact on society by supporting water conservation and food security.”
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