Solution Cluster 2.2.1

FOOD Is Never Waste

Collaborating to halve food waste by 2030 and reduce food losses

This is a coordinated effort to support countries across the globe cut food waste by 50% and reduce food loss by 2030. Each country would publicly set a FLW reduction target (consistent with SDG Target 12.3), measure their FLW (to set a baseline, identify FLW hotspots to prioritise, and monitor progress over time), and act by implementing policies and practices that reduce FLW. The G7 nations committed to this approach in May 2021. This effort and its component interventions would be led by various institutions (Annex 1) many of whose leaders are part of Champions 12.3 – a voluntary coalition of leaders dedicated to inspiring ambition, mobilising action, and accelerating progress toward SDG Target 12.3.

About this Solution Cluster

The world is not yet on track to achieve SDG 12.3. An acceleration of action by countries and across the value chain is needed. Agriculture and food systems cannot be resilient if they are not sustainable. Reducing FLW has a role to play in a world where approximately 1/3 of food is lost or wasted between the farm and fork each year. This is a travesty when 1 in 9 people go to bed hungry and undernourishment is on the increase globally. It results in more than $1 trillion/year in economic losses, depressing farmer incomes and pinching family budgets. The pandemic-induced recession and job losses are contributing to the rise of hunger and inequalities while considerable quantities of food are lost or wasted. Moreover, this amount of FLW consumes ¼ of the world’s freshwater use by agriculture, requires farmland area greater than the size of China, and emits around 8% of global greenhouse gases, including 800 million tons CO2e annually from decomposition of food waste in landfills. Failure to act will lead to more unnecessary deforestation and grassland conversion to feed the world’s growing population and make tackling climate change even more challenging. Countries will not be able to achieve Net Zero and are unlikely to deliver the Paris Agreement on climate change without tackling FLW.

FLW is a complex issue that affects the whole agri-food system. A holistic approach that will benefit countries at different stages of development and that looks at the weaknesses and inefficiencies in the food systems from different angles is needed to identify comprehensive sets of context-appropriate solutions. These can draw from innovations from multiple sectors (infrastructure, technology, energy, R&D, education and capacity development). To deliver impact, a range of policy and programmatic interventions inducing the desired consumer behaviour change and FLW-reducing private sector investments have been shown to work. These interventions can be most effective through Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) which work across the supply chain and combine multiple interventions tailored to address context-specific food system flaws and may include, for instance,  investment in climate-friendly cold chains to reduce food losses, implementation of policies that encourage food surplus donation, tackle unfair trading practices in supply chains, relaxation of cosmetic standards, discourage or ban disposal to landfill, and running consumer behaviour change campaigns to help citizens reduce food waste. Using a PPP, food manufacturers have reduced their food waste by 15% in Norway in 3 years and 31% in the UK in 6 years. Redistribution of surplus food in the UK and in France, in the latter backed by robust legislation, has doubled in recent years. Policies implemented in Japan and South Korea have also reduced food waste. Action helping citizens reduce food waste in homes has helped reduce edible household food waste by 28% in the Netherlands and 31% in the UK. Evidence has shown that even basic technological improvements, e.g., in bulk packaging, reduces transport losses by 80% in targeted supply chains and payback the investment in the same period. Making a difference at the macro level will necessitate the introduction of systemic approaches and creation of linkages that are critical to generating economic growth in rural areas and reducing hunger and poverty. The role that women play as farmers, in the supply chain and at household level must be explicitly recognised and solutions developed that seek to address the constraints that currently exist. This will help improve their productivity, maximise returns and reduce FLW. Components of this cluster have been tried and tested in many countries, but the combination of measures has not yet been implemented in a single country. By implementing these measures together, we believe rapid progress can be made to achieving SDG 12.3.

The collaboration working on this cluster will support countries in developing a suite of context specific interventions, ranging from policies and regulations to voluntary initiatives to reduce their FLW  by 2030, building on any existing domestic programmes. Key elements of the cluster (see also Annexes 3 and 4) are:

  • Target – Measure – Act
  • Diagnostics
  • Awareness Raising and Advocacy for FLW reduction
  • Building Capacity to Reduce FLW and sharing knowledge
  • Farm losses
  • Supply chain FLW
  • Household food waste
  • Empowerment of women
  • Circular economy public policies
  • Monitoring
  • Financing

Our effort will support countries implementing these components by:

  • Raising awareness to a broader spectrum of stakeholders including private citizens. 
  • Convening participating countries and building institutional capacity so they can inspire and learn from each other, including through South-South collaboration.
  • Providing learning opportunities, “how to” guidance, support to business and financial model development, proven tools e.g. for measuring and follow up methods, and leadership on each component.
  • Bringing companies (e.g. from the Consumer Goods Forum and World Business Council for Sustainable Development) to join in national efforts
  • Facilitating networking among grassroots influencers, large organisations, farmers, cooperatives, SMEs, NGOs and public institutions to support FLW reduction. 
  • Bringing new financial resources into efforts to reduce FLW.
  • Monitoring progress, publicly profiling successes, and maintaining momentum.
  • It builds capacity and gets a major group of countries and companies to seriously tackle FLW. In the global South in particular, governments have a key role to play in creating an enabling environment to support FLW reduction. In high-income countries, private sector actions will bring scale, including by helping/supporting their suppliers.
  • Quantifying the economic, environmental and food security benefits of FLW reduction helps build a political and economic case for action. Awareness raising will trigger a “FLW reduction movement” in which countries, companies and people do not want to be “left out” when they see their peers joining that movement.
  • It promotes gender responsive and culturally adapted FLW interventions which have a greater chance of being effective and to have long-lasting impact.
  • It requires countries and companies to measure their FLW, which reinforces the need to act (since “what gets measured gets managed”) while showing the benefits from action.
  • It brings in innovations in de-risked finance, a major gap in investment in FLW reduction technologies and business models.
  • A food systems approach that links the economic, social and environmental benefits generated from FLW reduction.

Annex 1

Organisations and institutions that are associated with this solution

  • UN FAO and UNEP
  • Champions 12.3
  • WRI
  • WWF
  • Rabobank
  • WRAP
  • WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development)
  • Feedback Global
  • Fight Food Waste, Australia
  • World Farmers Organisation
  • Wageningen UR
  • World Bank Group
  • Unilever
  • CGF (Consumer Goods Forum)
  • Fight Food Waste-Australia
  • UK, DK, NL, other countries
  • Sustainability Initiative for Fruits & Vegetables
  • Stop Waste Now
  • Global Cold Chain Alliance
  • CIAT
  • Rockefeller Foundation
  • Accenture
  • IDH
  • Olam
  • Maersk
  • Kelloggs
  • FOLU Coalition
  • Global Food Banking Network
  • Too Good to Go
  • KURADASHI Ltd (Japan)
  • Thriving Solutions
  • Wasteless
  • Winnow
  • Apeel Sciences

Annex 2

Further information on the areas proposed

An inclusive approach will be taken to address the issues in countries at all levels of development. The collaboration working on this cluster can help implementation of any of the following components, given circumstances and funding availability:

  • Target – Measure – Act: Countries and companies should develop a strategy and plan based on target – measure – act. Adoption of the SDG target sets ambition. Measurement allows you to understand hot spots and action then follows to reduce FLW. Measurement for member state reporting should be in line with the Food Loss Index, for which FAO is the custodian, and the Food Waste Index for which UNEP is custodian. Company measurement and monitoring should be in accordance with international best practice such as the Food Loss and Waste Protocol.
  • Diagnostics: Working with the World Bank, IFPRI, FAO, UNEP, national statistical offices, and/or domestic research institutions, conduct baseline assessments of FLW levels, identify “hotspots” and root causes of FLW, identify solutions, and estimate potential economic, climate impact and food security benefits of FLW reduction (incl. financial diagnostics). Efforts will support better collection of data on where waste and loss occurs and the causes so that solutions are properly targeted. Encourage states to fund the generation of national level food loss and waste baselines for the entire food chain, from the point at which food is ready to harvest/slaughter, with a view to setting national reduction targets against these baselines (legally binding if appropriate). Identify the issues that compromise sustainability and identify the solutions to address them and monitor those impacts in terms of SDG indicators.
  • Awareness Raising and Advocacy for FLW reduction: promote global attention and awareness to support FLW reduction in a sustainable manner.
  • Building Capacity to Reduce FLW and sharing knowledge: where appropriate developing and up-grading centers of excellence, innovation hubs and existing technical platforms to support sustainable FLW reduction.
  • Farm losses: Launch a pro-active effort to invest in and roll-out sustainable business cases, using technologies (e.g., storage, climate-friendly cold-chains), practices (e.g., harvesting techniques, IT-connectivity for getting otherwise wasted produce to secondary markets, agro-ecological practices, indigenous knowledge and direct farmer-consumer relationships) and buyer policies (e.g. relaxation of cosmetic specifications, regulation of unfair trading practices, risk-sharing by buyers to end incentives to overproduction) that help reduce on-farm and near-farm food losses. Promote the adoption of sustainable post-harvest technologies, resource efficiency and sustainable practice in post-harvest operations and in value addition.
  • Supply chain FLW: Launch PPP initiatives and/or policies as appropriate to the national context, setting targets for businesses to reduce food waste in their operations and to help/support their suppliers, including primary producers (and customers), including mandatory public reporting on progress. Put in place policy instruments to limit waste in supply chains that results from unfair trading practices or unfair power dynamics in supply chains.
  • Household food waste: Launch a domestic consumer-facing awareness and behavior-change campaign to encourage and empower households to reduce their food waste. Support grassroots influencers and organisations to implement locally tailored approaches. Consult with consumers to find out which retail policies cause them to waste most, and pursue reforms in these policies (e.g. reduced buy one get one free offers, resealable packaging, variety of portion sizes available, clearer use by labelling).
  • Empowerment of women: Build capacity and strengthen women’s capabilities by supporting, and removing barriers to, access to information, finance, training and decision making.
  • Circular economy public policies: Support countries in designing and implementing policies that prevent food from ending up in landfills or incinerators, for instance by introducing mandatory separate food waste collections, bans or taxes on food sent to incineration or landfill, by facilitating edible food redistribution, upcycling, value-add processing, animal feed production and recycling into low carbon fertiliser.
  • Monitoring: Independently monitor and make transparent country and company progress over time.
  • Financing: At the global level, launch a “Food Loss and Waste Investment Fund” (or similar) that attracts public and private money to de-risk financing of food loss and waste reduction technologies, enterprise, cooperatives, research and development of public policy and social movements.

Annex 3

Annex 3
Annex 3

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