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2016-09-26

More action needed to tackle global food waste, report finds

KAro Not fit for sale: carrots (Photo: Pixabay, WikimediaImages)

Governments and businesses worldwide need to accelerate efforts to reduce food waste if target 12.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) on food waste is to be met. This is the message of a new report released on September 22 by Champions 12.3, a coalition of leaders from government, business and civil society. The report is the first in an annual series of publications providing an assessment of the world’s progress towards the target of halving, by 2030, “global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses”. The report finds that governments and organisations across Europe, Africa and the United States have taken a number of notable steps over the past year since the SDGs were adopted, but considering the enormous scale of the food waste problem more effort is needed. Almost one-third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted. Food loss and waste is responsible for roughly $940 billion in economic losses globally per year and 8% of greenhouse gas emissions. “Reducing food loss and waste can be a triple win. It can help feed more people. It can save money for farmers, companies, and households. And reductions can alleviate pressure on climate, water, and land resources,” the report says. The authors recommend nations, cities and businesses in the food supply chain to move quickly to (1) set reduction targets, (2) measure progress and (3) take action to reduce food loss and waste. According to the report, targets set ambition and this motivates action. Therefore, every country, city and company involved in the food supply chain should set food loss and waste reduction targets consistent with SDG target 12.3 in order to ensure sufficient attention. Some governments and companies have already adopted such targets, the report finds. For example, the US announced the goal of halving food loss and waste by 2030. The report warns that target setting so far is limited to a few regional blocks and some large multinational companies. If target 12.3 is to be met, however, every country, especially major emerging economies, as well as all companies in the food supply chains need to take part. With regard to the second recommendation, although there is some progress, much more is needed when it comes to measurement. “An old adage is that ‘what gets measured gets managed.’ This also holds true for food loss and waste”, the report says, calling on governments and companies to quantify and report on food loss and waste and monitor progress over time through 2030. Government action to achieve SDG Target 12.3 will likely occur at the country or even subnational level, requiring quantification at that geographic scale. The report mentions the UK as a leader in this area, having one of the most extensive estimates of country-level food waste in the world. In particular, the British nonprofit institution WRAP has published several countrywide food waste estimates. Also the EU has issued a number of estimates for food loss and waste levels across its 28 Member States. With regard to companies, Tesco, a leading food retailer with stores in 11 countries, was named a pioneer. Since 2013, Tesco has been conducting an annual food loss and waste inventory for its operations and publicly reporting the results. “It was a move that was instrumental in showing us where we needed to focus our efforts. Once we identified the problems areas we knew where to act,” said Tesco’s CEO Dave Lewis. Setting targets and measuring food loss and waste are important, the report found, but ultimately governments, companies, farmers, and citizens need to act. Since the launch of the SDGs, there have been many notable actions by countries, companies, and others to tackle food waste. In February 2016, France adopted a law that requires supermarkets to donate unsold yet still edible food to charities. In August, Italy passed related legislation making food donations easier, including provisions that businesses will not face sanctions for giving away food past its sell-by date and that businesses will pay less waste tax the more they give away. Governments and companies should accelerate and scale up adoption of policies, incentives, and practices that reduce food loss and waste, the report concludes. (ab)

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The original version of the full report, five regional reports and the Synthesis Report in English, with a feature that allows you to make comments and/or add important information.

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