We’re on a road to halving food waste – now let’s drive it forward

Dr Marcus Gover, CEO, WRAP

This year we broke a new world record. But it wasn’t anything to celebrate.

This year, Earth Overshoot Day fell on the earliest day of the year ever - since the world began recording the date it exceeded its available natural resources for the year, way back in the 1970s. Every day since Wednesday 1st August 2018 we’ve effectively been living on credit from the planet’s resources – borrowing from our future. An unsustainable balance.

This is an absolute travesty when you consider one third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted each year. And when you look at the environmental, economic, and social costs of this waste.

So it was encouraging to hear of the progress being made across the world at the Champions 12.3 event in New York, today. The latest SDG Target 12.3 on Food Loss and Waste Progress Report makes me feel we may be able to repay some of this debt, certainly in terms of the cost of food waste.

The Progress Report shows that nearly two-thirds of the world’s 50 largest food companies are now participating in programmes with a food waste reduction target.

But there is no room for complacency. We need to scale up to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goal Target 12.3 of halving food waste by 2030.

That’s why WRAP has been working on two ground-breaking developments this year. Two important new pieces of work to Target, Measure and Act on food waste. 

At today’s meeting of Champions 12.3 in New York we unveiled two world-firsts; providing the means to drive forward towards the 2030 target – the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap and the Food Waste Atlas™.

Together WRAP and IGD have mobilised industry leaders in the UK to create the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap. The Roadmap is sector-wide and hugely ambitious. It shows clearly what UK businesses must do and comes with a commitment for all major UK retailers and large food businesses to set a food waste reduction target, measure their food waste, and help suppliers and consumers reduce their food waste.

I am a firm believer that we must unite in the food waste fight. And it has been great to work with the team at IGD over the last six months – to build this pathway, develop the goals, and, critically, work with the industry who have really bought into the Roadmap.

Today we have over 80 early adopters supporting the Roadmap. This time next year, the aim is to have fifty percent of the UK’s largest 250 food businesses measuring, reporting and acting on food waste. With all 250 companies doing so by 2026.  The Roadmap makes the UK the first country in the world to set a nation-wide plan towards delivering its part in SDG 12.3. This is a game-changer.

As a Champion 12.3 I am committed to driving change in food waste reduction. There is much being done around the world.   But there is a need to be able to gather all this data in one place. That’s why, together with WRI, we have developed the Food Waste Atlas – the world’s first freely accessible online tool to bring global food loss and waste data together.

Atlas will be a hugely important tool to capture data on food loss and waste from around the world. It will allow companies and governments to report their food loss and waste, in line with the Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard, and develop baselines. It will enable anyone, anywhere, to track food loss and waste across food types, sectors, and geographical boundaries.

It’s been an ambitious and challenging undertaking, but one we think is worth the effort.

Why? Because Atlas will provide essential insights into the scale and location of food loss and waste - helping users focus on where in the supply chain they might profitably act to reduce food loss and waste. And Atlas makes it simpler to measure and track food loss and waste in a consistent manner, benchmark performance, and identify “hotspots”.

The Food Waste Atlas already contains data from all parts of the supply chain, from over 100 countries. Some of our Roadmap industry partners are already actively engaged with Atlas. What we now need is more companies and countries to follow the UK’s lead. To view the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap as a blueprint for galvanizing wide-scale industry action and report their food waste data through the Food Waste Atlas – using these tools to drive change and measure progress.

We need a truly global effort. We need to accelerate worldwide action to achieve SDG 12.3. With the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap and the Food Waste Atlas we have more tools to do this. Now let’s drive it forward.