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One-third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted from farm to fork. This level of inefficiency in the food system has tremendous economic, social, and environmental consequences. Now, a first-of-its-kind analysis finds that there is a robust business case for companies, countries, and cities to reduce food loss and waste.

The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste’s findings reflect real-world financial costs and benefits – including who pays and who benefits – a focus that speaks to hard-nosed business CFOs and government budget directors.

For Companies

A review of 1,200 business sites across 700 companies in 17 countries found that nearly every site evaluated achieved a positive return, with half seeing a 14-fold or greater return on investment.

Data come from companies representing a range of sectors, including food manufacturing, food retail (e.g., grocery stores), hospitality (e.g., hotels, leisure), and food service (e.g., canteens, restaurants). The report details the kinds of investments companies made, and the ways in which they benefited financially.

For a Country

Between 2007 and 2012, the United Kingdom curbed household food waste by an astounding 21 percent, following a nationwide initiative led by the government, retailers, and the non-profit organization WRAP. The UK is the only nation we could find with full financial cost-benefit data available. Findings show that for every £1 invested in efforts to curb avoidable household food waste, households and local authorities saved £250.

For a City

In 2012, six West London boroughs began an initiative to reduce household food waste. After just six months, households were wasting 15 percent less food. Findings show that for every £1 the boroughs spent to reduce food waste, they saved £8 in avoided waste management costs, and households saved £84.

London’s experience indicates that there could be great potential for other cities to reap high financial returns from reducing food loss and waste.

The Non-Financial Business Case

Interviews with more than two-dozen government and business leaders indicate a number of strategic yet non-financial reasons for reducing food loss and waste, as well.

The report outlines a number of such reasons, including: food security, waste regulations, environmental sustainability, stakeholder relationships, and ethical responsibility.

Call to Action

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

  • Targets set ambition, and ambition motivates action. Champions 12.3 recommends that every government (national and city) and company set a target for reducing food loss and waste that is aligned with SDG Target 12.3.
  • What gets measured gets managed. Champions 12.3 recommends governments and companies measure their food loss and waste to understand how much, where, and why it is occurring, and monitor progress over time. The Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard (www.flwprotocol.org) can help countries and companies do so.
  • What ultimately matters is action. Champions 12.3 recommends leaders start implementing practices, programs, and policies that reduce food loss and waste. The business case report showcases a number of proven approaches.

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