Taking Action Against Food Waste: An Urgent Priority to Limit Climate Change

By Denis Machuel

This post originally appeared on linkedin.com.

In light of the climate crisis and over-consumption of natural resources, the best way to feed a growing global population is not to increase agricultural production, but to reduce waste and better value the food already being produced. This is the message that I brought, on behalf of Sodexo, to the Climate Action Summit held during the recent UN General Assembly. I was particularly struck by conversations during the annual meeting of the Champions 12.3 coalition, whose mission is to mobilize companies and governments to meet the UN’s sustainable development goal to halve food waste by 2030. On the occasion of World Food Day, happening today, I’m pleased to share with you four observations from these discussions.

1. We must place as much emphasis on actions against food waste as the energy transition.

While the recent IPCC report reminds us of the urgent need to profoundly change our production and consumption habits, the fight against food waste is often missing from the environmental measures established by governments, as demonstrated in the annual report issued by the Champions 12.3 coalition. However, food waste is the cause of 8% of greenhouse gas emissions, close behind passenger cars. While this statistic is hardly reassuring, it ought to press us to develop a united, systemic response to the issue.

2. Measuring is the key means to raise awareness and accelerate change.

One of the Champions 12.3 coalition’s priorities is to empower all participants in the food chain to start measuring because we strongly believe in the power of measurement to raise awareness and change behaviors. At Sodexo sites equipped with our WasteWatch program, the simple act of measuring waste at each step in the food preparation process has helped our teams cut waste by 50%. To be effective, measuring must be used to incentivize the right behaviors at all levels. That is why, at every WasteWatch site, we are committed to communicating about the volume of waste, so that consumers can, in turn, become agents of change in their communities.

3. Transparency and collaboration are needed to define the most impactful solutions, from the farm to the table.

Only a few of the 50 largest companies in the agro-food industry publicly release their food waste volumes. I took my attendance at the Champions 12.3 meeting as an opportunity to bring Sodexo into this movement. Through our experience with the International Food Waste Coalition, we know that the effectiveness of actions depends on transparency and collaboration. This is why we are optimistic about the 10X20X30 Initiative, which was launched to keep the entire food production industry accountable and enable collective action, in partnership with our suppliers. This is a powerful call to action, and I invite everyone in our industry to join the movement.

4. As a pioneer, France must continue to show the way.

As the Champions 12.3 report indicates, many governments have yet to set ambitious goals to reduce food waste. France has been a pioneer in this regard, thanks to a law passed in 2016, mandating specific actions to reduce food waste — a first of its kind in the world. Since then, Sodexo has directly witnessed an unprecedented mobilization through our partnerships with Stop Hunger, the French Federation of Food Banks, and the nonprofit Restos du Cœur. There are also some promising start-ups investing in new services designed to address the problem of food waste. Outstanding examples include Phénix, our partner at the Eiffel Tower restaurants, and Too Good To Go, with which we have partnerships including through Lenôtre and FoodChéri.

As the citizen movement led by the younger generation continues to grow, there’s an urgency to reach a tipping point in the fight against food waste on a global scale. Let us keep in mind that the tragedy of food waste is not limited to its environmental impact. It is also a moral failure: more than 820 million people face food insecurity at a time when one-third of the food produced globally is wasted. Sodexo is committed on every level to finding solutions, working together with all relevant stakeholders, because we have the responsibility and the power to effect change.