Reducing food waste is IKEA's 'triple win'

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I was delighted to hear about the work IKEA is doing to tackle food waste from its own operations and the announcement this week of its target to halve food waste by 2020 is great. Setting this target demonstrates real leadership. It will be challenging to achieve  2020 is only three years away — but having talked to the team, I know the commitment is there to make it happen.

Food loss and waste is a serious issue. It presents a global challenge. An estimated (PDF) 32 percent of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted from farm to fork. This huge level of inefficiency has economic, social and environmental impacts.

Food loss and waste causes about (PDF) $940 billion per year in economic losses — to give you a figure that’s easier to understand, food waste costs the average family in the U.S. around $1,500 a year.

Food loss and waste exacerbate food insecurity and malnutrition.

And food that is ultimately lost or wasted:

  • consumes about a quarter of all water used by agriculture,
  • requires cropland area the size of China, and
  • is responsible for an estimated 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

If food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the U.S. I’m sure you will agree that these are pretty big numbers.

Reducing this level of food loss and waste is a "triple win." Reductions can save money for farmers, companies and households. Wasting less means feeding more. And reductions alleviate pressure on climate, water and land resources.

However, achieving Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 of halving food waste and reducing loss in the supply chain will be a major challenge. 2030 is only 13 years away and massive change is needed. That is why we need to garner the support and involvement of the best leaders we can. We need to build a global movement, which in its turn requires collaboration, involving the right people at the right time and in the right way. Ultimately, we all need to care for and value the food we produce and eat.

Champions 12.3 is a global coalition set up to help provide the leadership and drive required to deliver SDG 12.3. Its members include leaders from the European Commission, the United States, the Netherlands, the African Union, South Africa, Vietnam, Denmark, the United Nations Environment Programme, Unilever, Nestlé, Tesco and the Consumer Goods Forum.

I’m delighted that Michael La Cour, MD of IKEA Food Services, has agreed to join the coalition as its newest champion.

I’m personally really excited by this as IKEA has huge potential to help drive behavior change. It serves around 650 million meals every year through its restaurants in almost 400 stores operating in 48 markets. That is a fantastic reach. It also employs around 18,000 Ikea Food co-workers who all can be agents for change. I can see a number of areas where they really will be able to help drive progress towards the SDG:

  • Tackling food waste in IKEA's own operations including the food waste from its restaurants;
  • Helping engage consumers on the issue of food waste so that they find it easier to make improvements at home and to waste less food at home; and
  • Developing and promoting products throughout their stores for things that will help people reduce food waste at home — for example, ways to store things better and to make the best use of the food they buy.

I think the target IKEA has announced this week is an important contribution to the development of a movement to tackle food loss and waste. If they achieve the target, it would IKEA Ikea one of the first, if not the first, company to successfully halve food waste from its own operations.

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