There is a pathway to reduce food loss and waste – now is the time to step up

Marcus Gover, CEO WRAP

As a Champion 12.3, I am committed to driving action to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal of halving food loss and waste by 2030.  It’s an ambitious target, but one as Champions we believe is not only achievable, but essential.

Essential because it matters economically, environmentally and socially

  • Economically because the global economy is losing $940 billion every year;
  • Environmentally because if food waste were a country it would be the third largest greenhouse emitter on the planet;
  • Socially because it is a global scandal that nearly 800 million go hungry, while more than a billion tonnes of food is never consumed.
The newly published Champions 12.3 report, which we co-authored with the World Resources Institute is an important milestone and a wake-up call to the world.  It shows that while momentum is growing and progress in 2017 is promising, to succeed in 13 short years we have to significantly ramp up our efforts.

This past year has seen landmark developments, particularly from the private sector, including The Consumer Goods Forum’s joint “Call to Action” with Champions 12.3 to standardise food date labelling worldwide by 2020, and The Global Agri-business Alliance’s “Food Loss Resolution,” under which member companies will reduce their rate of food loss by 50 percent by 2030.  We need more action like this.

Action like here in the UK, where we have seen Tesco launching  its “No Time for Food Waste” campaign, with the goal that no food safe for human consumption will go to waste in their retail operations by the end of the calendar year. And Sainsbury’s committing £10 million over the next five years through its “Waste Less, Save More” initiative, which aims to reduce UK household food waste.

In a key piece of work, WRAP is currently working with UK Governments and the Food Standards Agency to update industry guidance on the application of on-pack date and related advice. This is an important factor in reducing food waste at home and removing key barriers to distribution.

There has been a burgeoning of initiatives in the European Union, United States, Japan, and developing countries to advance public-private partnerships, new government policies, consumer campaigns, online resources, and more.  We are delighted that our Love Food Hate Waste campaign is being launched in Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland.

But the world must scale up efforts to target, measure and act against food loss and waste.

Only by setting targets, measuring food loss and waste and galvanising action, can we reach our destination.  But as everyone who has ever planned a journey will know, the first thing you need is a map of how to get there.  In the new report, we have done precisely that.  We have worked out a roadmap showing a possible pathway for achieving SDG Target 12.3.

The roadmap is based on expert input and provides milestones for a series of metrics between 2015 and 2030.  For instance that countries having 40% of global population are measuring, reporting, and actively working to reduce food loss and waste at scale by 2021, 60% population by 2024, and over 95% by 2027.  And that over 95% of the world’s 50 largest food companies have set food loss and waste reduction targets, consistent with Target 12.3, by 2021.

Here measurement is absolutely critical to success, and what ultimately drives progress.  Without measurement it is difficult to target action.  Moreover, without measurement it is impossible to say whether action has been successful and targets have been achieved.  When as Champions 12.3 we say “target, measure, act”, what we really mean is set targets, measure the problem, take appropriate action, measure the results, review your targets and steps you took, act and measure again.

It might sound like hard work, but the end goal is more than worth it.  If we can reduce the colossal environmental and social impact of food loss and waste we will also unlock the key to other SDGs such as poverty and climate change.   We know from The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste that there are huge economic drivers to reducing food loss and waste too – as Dave Lewis said, it’s a “no regrets” strategy.

But it can’t be done in isolation – we need global action, and fast. We have growing momentum, we have the Champions 12.3 and we have a roadmap.  We even still have the time - just.  What we need to see now is the world’s richest nations and organisations stepping up to support developing nations in reducing food loss and waste. 

It will take big acts by big players, and millions of actions from everyone from farmers to consumers, but we can have a future that achieves food security, protects the planet and contributes to prosperity for all.

Citizens, CEOs, government officials, we can all do something, and we must.  I for one do not want to be part of the generation who, given the historic opportunity of Target 12.3, had to admit we failed when we could have made a difference.

So let’s set out upon the pathway to success.  Let’s make history and win this food waste fight.