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Discarded profits

17 : 03 : 2017 Whole-system Thinking : Food Waste : The Immortal Brand

Global – Businesses that commit to reducing food waste will earn a positive return on investment, according to a new report.

  • Of 1,200 business sites analysed across 17 countries, half earned greater than a 14-fold financial return on investment, according to the report
  • According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), approximately one-third of all food produced in the world in 2009 was lost or wasted
  • This amounts to around £767bn ($940bn, €877bn) in economic losses globally per year

While initiatives such as Silo, a restaurant with a zero-waste policy, and food sharing app Olio, which enables consumers to access edible food destined for landfill sites, highlight the growing awareness around food waste, there is a mindset among some individuals that food waste is simply part of the cost of doing business.

The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste, commissioned by Champions 12.3 – a coalition of business leaders, governments and non-governmental organisations – shows that contrary to popular belief, reducing food waste can help businesses turn a profit.

The report analysed businesses across a range of sectors including food manufacturing, hospitality and food service, and found that the median financial benefit-cost ratio for company sites was 14:1. Sites with the highest returns tended to be restaurants.

Champions 12.3 suggests that these benefits are not limited to the private sector. Between 2007 and 2012 the total amount of household food waste in the UK fell by 21%, driven in part by a UK government initiative to reduce household food waste. The ratio of financial benefits to financial costs was found to be more than 250:1, highlighting the potential of similar programmes to reduce food waste and save money.

In a world in which one in nine people are undernourished and food waste and loss are responsible for 8% of annual greenhouse gas emissions, efforts to curb food waste are not only economically viable from a business perspective, but also of great benefit to the environment and consumers’ health around the world.

The Big Picture

Waste is increasingly seen as a resource and opportunity. Brands are harnessing the power of waste to generate energy and creating high-end garments from recycled materials. To find out more, read our Whole-system Thinking macrotrend.