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Measuring your food loss & waste – it’s time for more U.S companies to step up to the plate

Yesterday, Dave Lewis, Group Chief Executive of Tesco, led the latest Champions 12.3 meeting in New York City. He chairs a coalition looking to accelerate progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 12.3.

Many new and exciting developments were revealed by Tesco regarding their progress towards meeting the target, including their collaboration efforts across different supply chains and the expansion of their food waste reporting to their European operations (using Anthesis).

This was also the first state-side meeting of the Champions, creating a call for action to the US food industry. Food waste is a particularly prevalent issue in the US, with the NDRC’s latest report revealing that the United States wastes 40% of its food each year.

This waste occurs throughout the supply chain: from losses on the farm, to food being thrown away in consumers’ homes, as well as during all stages in between – processing, distribution, storage, in retail stores, and in food service operations. A sobering fact is that this wasted food would be enough to feed the 42 million Americans currently facing food insecurity.

So, what can be done to help reduce this?

A recent survey found that 57% of Americans debate whether or not to throw away food based on the date label shown on the packaging. The survey indicates that eliminating the confusion surrounding date labelling could be the single most cost effective way to reduce consumer food waste. It was announced at the Champions 12.3 meeting that 400 consumer goods firms have committed to a voluntary effort to standardize date labels globally by 2020.

What about during the other stages of the supply chain?

Champions 12.3 analysed nearly 1,200 business sites across 17 countries and found that 99% of the sites received a positive return on investment in food loss and waste reduction, with half of the business sites earning a greater than 14-fold financial return on investment. This is a clear argument for businesses along the supply chain to look at reducing food waste within their own operations. In fact, 20 leading retailers and brand have already pledged to halve food waste by 2030.

Where to start on the road to food waste reduction?

The 2017 NRDC report forms a second edition to the 2012 report with the same title. So how come this 40% figure hasn’t changed between 2012 and 2017? A lack of reliable data means it is difficult to tell whether less food is being wasted now than five years ago. And that is the crux of the problem – how can you manage what you haven’t measured?

A great place to start on this journey is by implementing the Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard (FLW Standard). The FLW Standard, which Anthesis supported in developing, was released in 2016 by the Food Loss and Waste Protocol, which is coordinated by World Resources Institute (WRI) and includes six other highly respected organizations. Its mission is to address challenges in gathering data and consistently accounting for and reporting on food loss and waste.

The FLW Standard provides a common language by which to define the scope of your investigation, a short list of requirements to ensure consistency and transparency throughout the measuring and reporting process, and guidance when choosing what to measure and how to do so. Through learning more about how much food is wasted, and the destination of this resource, you can begin to assess the opportunities to better utilise food.

Anthesis has considerable experience in implementing the relatively new FLW Standard; with our team using the Standard for measuring and reporting food waste with Tesco. As we help them expand reporting into the Republic of Ireland and Central Europe, we are helping them break new frontiers in the much-needed quest for food waste data.

Anthesis has also received direct instruction from WRI on understanding how to use the FLW Standard when implementing food waste measurement projects.

Is your next step to start measuring your food waste? Get in touch:

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Want to read more on this topic? Download our two page guide, ‘Addressing food waste in your own operations’, which outlines six clear steps to help you reduce your food waste.

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