Chris Franke, senior manager of global sustainability at Walmart and Janelle Meyers, chief sustainability officer at Kellanova, have shared a joint opinion on the urgency and steps to reduce food waste.
Currently, around one-third of all food produced is wasted per year. These 1.3 billion tonnes of food waste account for 8% of total global emissions – so ending food waste could hugely impact minimising climate change. At the same time, 10% of the world’s population does not have enough to eat.
Most food companies and retailers have programmes for food waste reduction. The question is: How do we drive the scale and pace of change that we urgently need?
The UN Environment Programme estimates that 13% of food is wasted during farming, production and transportation. “Collective action from food companies, retailers, farmers and manufacturers is vital to tackle the problem together,” the op-ed reported.
At the centre of the food value chain, food manufacturers and retailers are positioned to lead global efforts to reduce food loss.
The primary way Walmart avoids food waste in its operations is by increasing the sell-through of food products. The company has strengthened its forecasting and ordering tools to improve inventory flow, adjusted store fixtures to increase product turnover, enhanced distribution centres and offered discounts on food that is close to its expiration date.
From April 2021 to March 2022, Walmart stores and clubs in the US sold more than 190 million food units through discount programs. Additionally, when food goes unpurchased, Walmart associates work to maximise its use by getting it to people and places that need it.
At Kellanova, minimising food waste is crucial to delivering its ‘Better Days Promise’ to advance sustainable and equitable access to food, creating better days for four billion people by the end of 2030. In manufacturing, Kellanova maximises the conversion of raw materials into finished products – helping to “significantly” reduce waste. The company also partners to feed people who are facing food insecurity through food donations, while its predecessor, Kellogg Company, says it has fed 252 million people facing food insecurity since 2015.
For all food businesses, there is the question of how to use technology and human intelligence to better work out how to sell more of what’s been produced. A solid plan would consist of three actions:
Establish a baseline of exactly how much food is being wasted and set concrete targets – assess the scale of the issue and quantify the response.
Develop waste-cutting initiatives in priority areas with partners across the value chain. For example, work with suppliers to identify and address any specific points of food loss and collaborate on trialling innovations to remove them.
Put the enablers for sustained change in place by rolling out the new technologies and practices that have been successfully piloted.
To come up with this plan and implement it, the food industry must pull together – to ensure the level of change required, organisations must be transparent, share learnings and adopt best practices.
The Consumer Goods Forum’s Food Waste Coalition of Action brings together 21 of the world’s largest retailers and manufacturers – including both Kellanova and Walmart, as well as Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Unilever – to cut global food loss.
Food companies and retailers can’t drive the change needed without inspiring more consumers around the world to prevent food waste too. Every food company should use its reach to inspire greater consumer behaviour change – from clarity around date labels to tips on reusing leftover food.
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