I'm constantly struggling to control the food waste in my home, but that's a small task compared to those trying to figure out how to control worldwide food waste. A recent British report estimated there are 870 million hungry people in the world who could benefit from the food the rest of us are wasting — if only someone could figure out how to control the waste and push the food in the right direction.
The World Resources Institute has been working on just that. The group recently released the Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard, which is focused on figuring out where, when and how food goes to waste after production.
The statistics about waste are staggering. An estimated one-third of all food is lost or wasted worldwide as it moves from where it's produced to where it's eaten, costing up to $940 billion per year globally.
By accurately finding where food waste is happening, waste can be reduced. The World Resources Institute believes that reduction will lead to several solutions, including:
- Saving money for farmers, companies and households.
- An opportunity to feed more people.
- Easing the pressure on water, land and the climate.
“This standard is a real breakthrough. For the first time, armed with the standard, countries and companies will be able to quantify how much food is lost and wasted, where it occurs, and report on it in a highly credible and consistent manner,” said Andrew Steer, president and CEO of World Resources Institute. “There’s simply no reason that so much food should be lost and wasted. Now, we have a powerful new tool that will help governments and businesses save money, protect resources and ensure more people get the food they need.”
This tool has created the first global definitions of food waste, as well as reporting requirements for companies, countries and others to consistently measure, report on and manage food loss and waste. It's an idea that's used in business all the time: What can be measured can be managed. Food waste that's measured consistently around the globe can be managed around the globe.
By making the definitions and measuring standards consistent, all entities can compare data and draw useful conclusions, conclusions that can lead to the solutions mentioned above.
Nestle has tested the standard in its fresh milk supply chain in Pakistan, and has already found it useful, according to Huffington Post. The company determined where waste was coming from and found it to be only 1.4 percent. That might not seem like a huge percentage, but the company believes this new standard can help them do even better.
Pascal Gréverath, Nestle's vice president for environmental sustainability, told reporters, "Since we are in direct contact with many farmers, we have many opportunities to use (the standard) to better assess the possible options to further reduce loss and waste. This we do also together with local authorities, so there are ways we can promote the protocol.”
When companies like Nestle share their data and the steps they took to reduce waste, it puts the goal of The Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard within reach. Governments, including ours, need to join in this process.
Last year, the USDA and the EPA jointly released a food waste reduction goal for the nation, calling for a 50 percent reduction in food waste by 2030. There no word yet on whether the U.S. government will be adopting the the accounting and reporting standards released earlier this week by The World Resources Institute, but I hope it's being seriously considered. While our country has a personal goal to reduce food waste by 50 percent, we should be thinking globally, working with other countries and organizations, sharing ideas, and making sure that food gets into the hands of the hungry.