Momentum is building to address the 1.3 billion tons of food that is lost or wasted each year. But action is not yet at a pace needed to achieve SDG Target 12.3 by 2030.

Key points
  • A massive challenge requires massive action. The new report Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Setting a Global Action Agenda lays out a blueprint to overcome the world’s food loss and waste problem.
  • The report identifies an ambitious three-pronged approach to halve food loss and waste by 2030.
  • There are enormous benefits to reducing food loss and waste – for people and planet.

Food loss and waste: a global challenge  

Nearly a third of all food produced in the world goes uneaten each year; an amount that costs the global economy $940 billion and emits 8% of planet-warming greenhouse gases. If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter behind the United States and China. At the same time one in nine people is undernourished. We cannot fix climate change if we do not fix our dysfunctional global food system.

This new research from top food and agriculture experts suggests the world is at a critical moment in the fight against food loss and waste. The new report Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Setting a Global Action Agenda from the World Resources Institute, and with input from WRAP Global, finds momentum is building but not yet at a pace and scale needed to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to reduce food loss and waste by half by 2030.

Halving food waste would bring huge benefits, including:

  • Closing the gap between food that will be needed to feed everyone in 2050 and food available in 2010 by 20%.
  • Avoiding the demand to convert an area of natural ecosystems the size of Argentina into agricultural land between 2010 and 2050.
  • Lowering greenhouse emissions by 1.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2050. That’s an amount more than the current energy, and industry-related emissions of Japan.

The report suggests that only global, collaborative action can help achieve these benefits. And proposes an ambitions three-pronged agenda designed to show how businesses, governments, civilians and those directly involved in the food system can play an active role, individually and collectively:
  1. Governments and companies should follow an approach of “Target-Measure-Act”: Adopt a target to halve food waste by 2030, measure how much and where, and act on the hotspots.
  2. All actors in the food supply chain should kick-start their actions by pursuing a sector specific “to-do” list. For example, crop farmers could engage their customers to explore how more of what is harvested is sold, and retailers could educate consumers about better food management such as storing food correctly.
  3. Governments and business leaders should pursue 10 “scaling interventions” to accelerate the impact and pace of sector-specific actions across the entire supply chain. They range from developing national strategies, to shifting consumer social norms so wasting food is seen as unacceptable, to overcoming the deficit in data on how much food is loss and wasted in countries and businesses.

The shocking scale of food waste demonstrates the inequality and unsustainability of our dysfunctional global food system. Tackling food loss and waste is proven to be good for the health of the planet, and the human race. The global action agenda is an important document which shows us how with greater collaboration, ambition, and courage, we can achieve this.

Marcus Gover, CEO, WRAP

Released at the World Food Summit in Copenhagen, the report has been produced by the World Resources Institute with support from the Rockefeller Foundation. WRAP Global contributed to the report along with a host of other top food and agriculture experts.

It was written to respond to a call from the Champions 12.3 network for global action. Formed in 2015, Champions 12.3 is a coalition made up of around 40 leading executives from government, business and civil society, including WRAP CEO Marcus Gover. Several of the organisations which contributed to the report are led by Champions.

WRAP Global is developing the research and expertise which is helping to deliver UN SDG 12.3. The team is working actively with governments and businesses to help them target, measure and act on tackling food waste.

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