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400 consumer goods companies commit to cut food waste in half

A total of 400 corporate members of the Consumer Goods Forum have committed to a sustainability program that includes halving food waste by 2025.

A 2013 report (PDF) from the United Nations and the World Resources Institute documents the environmental and social damage inflicted by wasting up to one-third of food produced globally for human consumption.

Defining food waste as “food that is of good quality and fit for human consumption but that does not get consumed because it is discarded,” the report stated, “32 percent of all food produced in the world was lost or wasted in 2009.”

The consequences of that much food waste are several.

“In a world of rising population, increasing cost of food, concerns about inequality and growing food insecurity, food waste is one of the greatest challenges of our time,” stated the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a network of 400 retailer and manufacturers members.

Food waste adds over 3 billion tons of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the earth's atmosphere every year.

“If food waste was a country, it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases globally after China and the U.S.,” the forum noted. “The water footprint of food waste is equivalent to three times the volume of Lake Geneva.”

The economic tab for all that waste to the global economy? About $750 billion per year.

Wading into waste reduction

Members of CGF have responded to the food waste crisis by incorporating the issue into its Sustainability Pillar, which also includes commitments to zero net deforestation by 2020 and, starting this year, the phasing out of ozone-depleting hydro fluorocarbons (HFC) in refrigeration.

CGF's Food Waste Resolution commits members to the following actions:

1. Preventing food waste, then maximizing its recovery towards the goal of halving food waste within the retail and manufacturing operations of CGF members by 2025, versus a 2016 baseline.

2. Halving per capita global food waste at the consumer level.

3. Reducing food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses, and maximizing the value of the remaining waste.

The resolution seeks to align CGF policy with the Food Loss & Waste Protocol under development by the World Resources Institute (WRI), described as “a multi-stakeholder effort to develop the global accounting and reporting standard for quantifying food and associated inedible parts removed from the food supply chain.”

According to the aforementioned report by the U.N. and WRI, “There is some precedent for progress.”

In the U.K., the Waste and Resource Action Program (WRAP) “achieved a 13 percent reduction in household food waste from 2007 to 2010. Manufacturers and retailers that signed up for Phase 2 of the Courtauld Commitment, a voluntary agreement convened by WRAP, reduced their food and drink waste by 8.8 percent between 2009 and 2011.”

Furthermore, the report continued, pilots in Benin, Cape Verde, India and Rwanda have seen food loss cuts of more than 60 percent while experimenting with “a variety of low-cost storage techniques and handling practices.”

In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency also provides a number of food waste assessment tools.

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