Food waste has tremendous economic, social, and environmental consequences, but it is preventable. First-of-its-kind research on behalf of Champions 12.3 finds a robust business case for food service providers operating in hospitals, schools, sports arenas and other facilities to reduce this inefficiency.

View the report’s media release here »


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A review of 86 sites in six countries found that nearly all achieved a positive return, with the average site seeing a 6:1 return on investment from reducing food waste.

The report also found:

  • On average caterers achieved a 36 percent reduction of food waste in just one year by weight. Within that first year, 64 percent had also recouped their investment. Within two years, 80 percent of sites had recouped their investment.
  • A full 79 percent of sites were able to keep their total investment in food waste reduction below $10,000.

Data come from sites located across China, Ireland, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The report details the kinds of investments companies made, and the ways in which they benefited financially.

Five Actions Stand Out for Achieving Successful Reduction Programs

  • Measure. Generating a “food waste inventory” enabled sites to identify how much and where food was wasted, so managers could prioritize hotspots and monitor progress over time.
  • Engage staff. Kitchen and service staff often want to help prevent food waste, but need more definition and guidance from leadership.
  • Start small and get creative. Starting with a small-scale pilot phase allowed caterers to trial solutions and gradually expand the scope of a program, giving adequate time for peer learning. Pilot programs also allowed on-site kitchen staff to develop some of the most creative and effective strategies to combat waste. Caterers can also learn from others’ past experiences and scale up solutions quickly.
  • Reduce overproduction. Many sites had at least one menu item that was consistently under-consumed. By simply producing smaller quantities of these items, sites prevented waste without negatively impacting the customer experience.
  • Repurpose excess food. Having a “Plan B” for how to safely repurpose leftovers allowed kitchens to generate revenue from this potential waste. For example, unsold meats from breakfast may be a potential ingredient for a lunch or dinner dish.

Call to Action

Champions 12.3 encourages catering managers to “target, measure, and act” to realize the business case for themselves.

  • Target. Targets set ambition, and ambition motivates action. Caterers should adopt a voluntary reduction target of 50 percent by 2030, which is aligned with Target 12.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Measure. What gets measured gets managed. Caterers should start to measure their food loss and waste, and monitor progress toward achieving the target over time. The Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard can help entities proceed with measurement.
  • Act. Action is what ultimately matters. Caterers—working alone and together—should take measures to reduce food waste. A key success factor for action is management engagement.

The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Catering was made possible by support from Walmart Foundation and the Ministry of Economic Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.