1. Earlier in your career, you were a chemist. How did that inform your current work and vision for your work at WRI?
Being a scientist means that I take an analytical approach. I like to understand problems and analyse them to find the best solution. My PhD taught me how to think and approach different sorts of problems. Although I don’t use my chemistry background directly these days, it means I am able to grasp technical aspects related to food and the food system. I am therefore confident about challenging assumptions and am happy to read technical input.
2. As a Champion of the UN SDG Goal 12.3, that aims to halve food waste globally by 2030, what has been WRI’s role in driving the various initiatives required to achieve this goal?
There are two parts to this question. I am a Champion for SDG12.3 in my own right – that is very important to me. I care passionately about food loss and waste and I am dedicated to helping drive reductions – I see the Champions 12.3 coalition as being a vital mechanism to make sure that we do make progress. WRI provides the secretariat to the coalition and so I am able to play a full part in supporting and driving the initiative forward.
3. How does your work with the various WRI initiatives relate to public-private engagement (PPE) for Nutrition? What according to you are some of the more concerted efforts needed in this direction by the public and private sector players?
I am a strong advocate of public private partnerships and engagement. These are complex issues and they require action by all of us – public sector, private sector and non government. It is only by working together that we will find the best solutions and drive progress that is sustainable.
4. What is the latest success in this direction for WRI?
Every year we try to ensure that Champions 12.3 makes a number of significant announcements about progress. I am very proud this year that we are going to publish a guide for any government, business or other organisation that wishes to change consumer behaviour to reduce food waste from our homes. The guide brings together all the current best practice on consumer behaviour change so that learning can be shared more widely. We also produce an annual report summarising the progress being made globally – our 2022 report will be published on September 20th. I believe that report shows some significant progress, although we clearly still need to do far more.
5. You’ve been a key part of the dialogue around the connection between social behaviour and food waste. What have you learned so far about its linkage to nutrition?
I think the two agendas are closely linked.
It is a travesty that so many people are not able to access a nutritious diet and at the same time we have huge amounts of food waste, especially from our homes. The reasons are complex – lack of awareness, lack of skills and knowledge and a lack of valuing our food and the role it plays. Poor nutrition has long lasting, wide effects to our health and wellbeing which then impacts on other aspects of society.
We need to find ways of bringing things together so we get the win wins from solving both in a sustainable way.
6. When promoting an idea like food waste prevention, how do you persuade people to get on board as we grapple with sustainable diets and packaging?
I think it is important to show people the linkages – a sustainable food system will only be achieved if we reduce food loss and waste. Having a sustainable diet is also part of that. People are naturally concerned about packaging. We need to ensure any packaging used is as sustainable as possible, the we don’t over-package food – but we also need to recognise the role that packaging can play in helping to reduce food waste by protecting it from damage etc. It is about getting the balance right.
7. We hear a lot about Food Loss and Waste Protocol. What key concepts should the Nutrition Connect audience keep in mind when aligning their work for a more sustainable food system transformation?
The Food Loss and Waste Protocol is important because it provides a framework for consistent measurement of food loss and waste. Measurement is vital because it shows you where the hot spots are in terms of food loss and waste – which then allows you to focus action on the most serious issues. Having a good knowledge about amounts of different types of food that are lost or wasted, also allows you to focus on the food types that are most important for ensuring a sustainable food system.
8. How has this work changed your thinking or surprised you?
I now have a better understanding of how complex and inter-related all the issues are. We really need to consider all aspects to make the best decisions. However, I am also impressed at how it is possible for people and businesses to come together to collaborate and make a real difference – for example, the collective work by some of the retailers and businesses in the food sector. They haven’t solved the problems but they are making a difference.
I remain surprised by the fact that not enough people see the link between food loss and waste and greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Reducing food waste is something we can all individually do in our own homes and lives – and collectively that will make a big difference. It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce our environmental impacts and save us all money.
9. Tell us about your favourite meal.
I love fruit and vegetables which is helpful. Meals involving lots of those things are always good, for example, stuffed peppers which I often make.
Liz Goodwin is a chemist by background and started her career in the chemical industry. In 2001, she joined the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and was appointed CEO in 2007 which position she held until 2016. Liz joined the World Resources Institute (WRI) in 2016 as Senior Fellow and Director, Food Loss and Waste. She is a Champion of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 whose aim is to halve global food waste by 2030. In 2015 Liz was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. In 2017 Liz was appointed Chair of ReLondon by the Mayor of London.
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