Food loss and waste

Making changes to business as usual.  

Food loss and waste is an enormous challenge that directly impacts the income of farmers and actors across the food value chain. It affects the environment and the economy, and there is emerging research to better understand how decreasing food loss and waste may influence nutrition.  It’s a challenge we can tackle together. Globally, it is estimated that 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted each year, which totals US $990 billion dollars

The good news about a problem this big is that there is an equally big opportunity to do something about it. There is already significant global momentum on food loss and waste, and a number of public private initiatives are already working together across the food system.

At the global level, SDG Target 12.3 sets an ambitious goal for us to “halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.”  A public private leadership coalition with executives from governments, businesses, international organizations, research institutions, and civil society, has been created to lead, track and report on progress towards the 2030 goal.

To find out what public private engagement (PPE) can do to reduce food loss and waste and what we are learning about its potential to improve nutrition outcomes around the world, explore the targets, data, tools, innovations and alliances below that are working to create change in the food system.

Top resources we think matter

Factsheets: For a compilation of statistics and infographics on global food loss and waste look no further!
Advocacy and policy: Recommendations from the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems are targeted at policy makers in low- and middle-income countries
Case studies and tools: Innovation has led to the world’s first food loss and waste calculator that instantly estimates the value of food loss and waste in terms of the nu
Reports and discussion papers: This is the third annual progress report on behalf of Champions 12.3, a coalition of executives from governments, businesses, international organiz
Looking for more?

We have pulled together evidence and experience to make it easy for you to find, understand and use the best available evidence and experience to stimulate public private action and investment for nutrition. 

Initiatives

Food loss and waste: Six things to know

If the current rate of food loss and waste were cut in half―from 24 percent to 12 percent―by the year 2050, the world would need about 1,314 trillion kilocalories (kcal) less food per year
“Food loss is more of an issue in developing countries given weaknesses in their food supply chains. It constrains food security by reducing the availability of nutritious food.”

The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2014, Global food security index 2014: An annual measure of the state of global food security.

One of the key findings from a Canadian case study emphasised applying lessons learned from other successful initiatives and stressed the need to “Employ a collaborative approach with strategic partnerships between government and industry with NGOs as
At each stage of the supply chain, it's estimated that between 1% and 40% of products are wasted because of these [cosmetic] guidelines and are considered suboptimal.

Wunderlick and Martinez

“23–24% of total use of water, cropland, and fertilisers are used to produce losses.”

Kummu et al. Lost food, wasted resources: Global food supply chain losses and their impacts on freshwater, cropland, and fertiliser use. Science of the Total Environment 438 (2012) 477-489.

“Where will we find enough food for nine billion? Of all of the options for boosting food availability, tackling waste would be one of the most effective.”

National Geographic, May 2014.

Stories & case studies

The business case for reducing food loss and waste: UK case study

The business case for reducing food loss and waste: UK case study

In this study, the authors set out to determine whether the financial benefits of implementing food loss and waste reduction strategies outweigh the costs, and if so by how much. Authors used examples with available financial benefit and cost data to estimate benefit to the cost ratios of taking action for a country, city and companies. Importantly, the study found that success depended on public private engagement through business-to-business, business-to-consumer, and government interventions.

According to their calculations, just the financial benefit to cost ratio is 250 to 1 – so on average, for every £1 invested, they saw a benefit of £250. In addition to this impressive financial return, interviews with business and government leaders suggested there were a number of positive, but harder to measure, non-financial benefits to investing in food waste reduction strategies, such as improving food security, waste regulations, environmental sustainability, stakeholder relationships, and a sense of ethical responsibility.

Although this case study focuses on interventions in the UK where there may be more robust regulatory environment, infrastructure and resources, there are lessons for everyone here. 

To learn more

Food Tech India

FoodTechIndia

FoodTechIndia (FTI) is a public private initiative that began in 2017 to address food loss and waste in India. There is growing demand for nutritious food in India, yet approximately 40% of fruits and vegetables are loss each year.  This initiative seeks to address the increased demand, and to address the associated economic losses – estimated at about €1.8 billion per year.  To address these gaps, the initiative will combine the strengths of Dutch agro-food companies, knowledge institutes, governmental agencies and their Indian counterparts to reduce loss and waste by addressing inefficiencies and improving supply and cold chains.  The initiative focuses its activities for now on the state of Karnataka.

By leveraging the experience of the five partners involved in the initiative, it is hoped that the major causes of food loss and waste will be addressed, and efficiency will be improved.   The actions include: On-farm technology and training; More efficient harvesting, packaging and transportation; Cold chain technology and storage techniques; and Better links to markets through established supply and cold chains. The full list of objectives can be found here..

Partners in the initiative include:

  • Broekman Logistics: Leading provider of logistic services globally with core business in international freight forwarding, warehousing and distribution.
  • Future Consumer Limited: Leading retailer with multiple retail formats spread over India. Future Group is engaged in sourcing, branding, marketing and distribution of FMCG, food and processed food products in urban and rural India.
  • Rijk Zwaan: One of the top 5 vegetable breeding company with the focus on the development of high-quality vegetable varieties.
  • TNO: Independent applied knowledge institute whose expertise will contribute to cold storage and cold logistics solutions
  • Larive International: A business development advisory firm specialized in assisting companies in developing and implementing their market entry or expansion strategies in(to) high-growth markets.
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands: The consortium is in close cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to jointly execute the project successfully.

As a relatively new initiative, no results have been published but stay tuned and we will update as new information and results become available. 

To learn more