As companies face increasing pressure to demonstrate the steps they’re taking to address today’s many social and environmental challenges, many feel what’s often called “commitment fatigue.” While a wide range of new ESG goals and pledges are being made, there is still a drastic need for action to move these commitments forward. Especially coming out of the pandemic, when delays and volatility held back even the best laid plans, there’s a growing sense of urgency to make real progress against corporate ESG commitments.
One area in particular that is ripe for action is food loss and waste. At least 35% of food goes unsold and uneaten in this country each year, costing businesses around $250B and contributing about 150M tons in GHG emissions.
At the same time, reducing food waste is a non-controversial and cross-cutting issue, with a straightforward return on investment (research finds every $1 spent by businesses on reducing food waste returns $14). Doing so not only works to reduce the impacts of our food system, but is also a critical solution for reducing GHG emissions and food insecurity. Simply put – food waste is a low-risk, high-return investment for both businesses and the environment.
In a unique, public-private effort to accelerate action and progress against companies’ food waste and climate commitments (such as 10x20x30, Champions 2030, and SDG 12.3), the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment has brought together leading food businesses to publicly report their food waste data on an annual basis, and to pre-competitively share both best practices and challenges in a series of working groups. The PCFWC’s sole focus is on turning food waste and climate commitments into action through technical assistance and collaboration.
Guided by the reporting data and the working group discussions, the PCFWC (with generous support from the Crown Family Philanthropies) has worked to design intervention projects that will: 1) identify shared food waste hotspots; 2) better define where and why waste is occurring; and 3) test high-potential solutions that can measurably prevent and reduce food waste.
Following two very challenging years in the pandemic, the PCFWC is thrilled to publish the first set of case studies from these intervention projects, in what will become a regular series in 2023 and beyond. These case studies aim to surface learnings and insights that might not otherwise be shared, and to de-risk high-potential strategies that the broader private sector can more widely adopt to reduce food waste.
These first three case studies focus on reducing food waste in grocery retail via improved food donation practices, waste tracking, and enhanced demand planning using artificial intelligence (AI). To give just one example, the AI project found a 14.8% reduction in food waste per store across 1,300 stores and two major retailers, which prevented an estimated 26,705 tons of CO2e emissions from landfills as a result.
In early 2023, additional case studies will be published on: the potential for e-commerce solutions to reduce grocery retail waste; employee engagement campaigns to identify low/no-cost food waste reduction in food manufacturing; food waste prevention and low-waste contracts in hospitality; upcycling; and more.