Why the food industry should invest in cutting food waste

Print publication


Companies operating in foodservice, hospitality and retail could make a 14-fold return on investment in curbing food waste via new equipment, product redesigns or awareness campaigns. This is according to a report presented by Champions 12.3, a group of 41 leaders across public and private sectors chaired by Tesco CEO Dave Lewis. The group works towards the global Sustainability Development Goal to cut food waste levels in half by 2030.

“Anyone who runs a business knows waste is a drain on money and resources,” said Lewis. “We wanted to set out clearly the investment case for reducing food waste to help urge more businesses to take action to tackle it. There are still too many inside business and government unaware and unsure of the kind of impact they can have by reducing food loss and waste and, to speak candidly, there are still too many businesses and government not doing enough to help tackle waste.

 “There are lots of reasons but partly because there isn’t a clear set of data and published economic analysis for reducing waste that CEOs can point to. This report articulates exactly that and the findings could not be clearer.

 “The research showed that 99% of businesses had a positive ROI in curbing food loss and waste and on average for every $1 invested there was a $14 return. In other words, reducing waste is a real business opportunity for manufacturers, retailers, restaurants and the hospitality business. It’s good for business, for consumers, for society and the environment and that’s why we’re asking more companies to join us to endorse our target, to measure their waste and to take real action toward halving global food waste.”

According to Champions 12.3:

  • a third of all food is lost or wasted between the farm and the fork
  • reducing food loss and waste can be a triple win: (1) saving money for farmers, companies, and households; (2) wasting less can feed more people; and (3) alleviating pressure on climate, water, and land resources.

The Champions include CEOs of major companies, government ministers, and executives of research and intergovernmental institutions, foundations, farmer organizations, and civil society groups. The group aims to accelerate progress toward meeting Target 12.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which seeks to halve per capita food waste and reduce food losses by 2030.

The Consumer Goods Forum

The Consumer Goods Forum, which represents over 400 large manufacturers, retailers and service providers, has pledged to reduce food waste from its members’ operations by 50% by 2025, five years ahead of the 2030 deadline for SDG Target 12.3, while Tesco has set a goal of not wasting food safe for human consumption by the end of 2017. Tesco is the official supermarket sponsor of the ‘Waste Not Want Not’ campaign launched by The Grocer magazine. The major food waste campaign aims to tackle the 1.9 million tonnes of food wasted each year by the UK supply chain by encouraging transparency, collaboration and co-operation among industry. Its core goals include to double redistribution to 100,000 tonnes by 2018 and to call for government incentives to encourage greater redistribution of edible surplus food to charity.

WM comment

The Energy Group at Walker Morris has advised on a wide range of food waste initiatives including some of the UK’s largest renewable energy projects powered by waste from the food and drink industry, delivering cost savings, revenue streams and green credentials through renewable energy generation, waste minimisation and carbon reduction. Click here to find out more.