Companies save $14 in operating costs for every $1 they invest in reducing food waste, according to a report from a coalition of businesses, government officials and NGOs.
The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste evaluated financial cost and benefit data for 1,200 sites across 700 companies in 17 countries. The research, conducted on behalf of Champions 12.3, found that nearly every site realized a positive return on its investment to reduce food waste.
The types of investments companies made include: quantifying and monitoring food loss and waste, training staff on practices to reduce waste, changing food storage and handling processes, changing packaging to extend shelf-life, changing date labels, and other staff and technology investments.
Champions 12.3 gets its name from Target 12.3 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which seeks to halve per capita food waste and reduce food losses by 2030. Its nearly 40 members include Nestlé CEO Paul Bulcke, Unilever CEO Paul Polman and Tesco CEO Dave Lewis.
According to the report, the 14:1 return on investment comes from not buying food that would have been lost or wasted, increasing the share of food that is sold to customers, introducing new product lines made from food that otherwise would have been lost or wasted, reducing waste management costs and other savings.
Tesco’s Lewis, who also is chairman of Champions 12.3, says one-third of all food produced in the world is wasted, while almost 1 billion people are hungry.
“But even if the moral imperative doesn’t move us, the clear business case should swing people to act,” Lewis said. “What this research shows is that there’s now no social, environmental or economic reason why we should not come together and take action to reduce food waste.”
The report recommends a “target, measure, act” approach to reduce food waste. First, it says every government and company should set a target to halve food loss and waste. Second, they need to start measuring food loss and waste so they can identify hotspots and monitor progress over time. The recently launched Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard can help them do this. Third, organizations need to act, implementing programs and practices for reducing food waste.
The report comes as hundreds of leading companies — Unilever, Walmart, Nestlé, Anheuser-Busch InBev, among them — have committed to halve food waste within their operations by 2025, compared to a 2016 baseline.
In addition to the new food waste standard, a range of other tools including an online hub, voluntary food labeling initiative, and smart waste management products that use big data to reduce waste, have launched in recent months.