4 Ways Businesses Can Reduce Food Waste

Published on: 16 November 2022
by Eric Burdon
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One of the welcomed additions to COP27 is the Food System Pavillion. While it is brand new to COP in general, this Pavillion plays a key role in changing the planet and taking preventative measures to save it.

The Food System Pavillion is all about changing how food is distributed and provided to people from the ground up. The goal is to radically change habits and behaviours around food as people all around the world are running into various food shortages, some countries worse than others.

While solutions are attractive, prevention is always key. The particular problem at the heart of food shortage is food waste. To put it into perspective, if food waste were a country it would be the world’s third largest emitter after China and the US. 

Another glaring issue is that when the World Benchmarking Alliance’s Food and Agriculture Benchmark assessed the world’s 350 most influential food companies, their assessment was scathing:

  • 40% of those companies didn’t provide any evidence they were working on food loss and waste.

  • Out of the 60% that did, 119 companies only provided qualitative evidence, so effectively useless information.

  • And of the 81 that provided quantitative evidence, only six of those companies are proactively dealing with this problem and making progress.

Even though smaller businesses don’t have to hold themselves to strict food usage standards, planetary problems demand everyone to be involved. This issue isn’t relegated to the farmers, food producers, and retailers that handle food. Every business can make changes to how they approach food in this way by considering implementing the following:

Food Waste Business Model

To start, some companies are already incorporating food waste into their business models. What this model can look like is taking some of the existing waste employees make, then using it to make something new or to solve a secondary business problem.

It can be tricky at first but companies across various industries can find new and creative ways to expand a business model through food waste. And if an idea doesn’t come to mind, composting food waste can be a good start as the fertiliser can be used for office plants or employees' gardens. 

Read the Stanford Social Innovation Review’s run through on the topic, then ask your team the questions and write down a plan.

Monetising Food Waste

Even though it might not be your initial business model, food waste can be monetized in various ways based on your existing business. For example, a company in Sweden was able to make biogas, which is then sold to fuel buses and heat homes. If you have a local biogas company, get in touch and find out if they’ll purchase or take your food waste.

In the US, there are 3 new startups launching programmes that handle food waste as well. Collaborating with those startups can yield interesting benefits.

Alternatively, finding ways to upcycle or make products with food waste can branch out the business. There is one pickle company that creates zero food waste as they upcycle the cucumber water used for dill creation and use it to make Bloody Mary drinks!

With a little bit of creativity, you can find various ways to turn everyday waste into a business idea. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure?

Donate Any Food Waste To Local Shelters

The term food waste doesn’t always mean things that are already eaten. A lot of food waste is fruits and veggies that are already ripe and fine, though may not have made it to grocery shelves because of overstocking. Canned goods are of course nice, however for perishable items, donating them to food shelters sooner rather than later can be beneficial too. 

This is also because the last place we want food waste to go is the landfill. While you may feel that organic waste will happily decompose into nutritious soil, the sheer amounts in landfills decompose anaerobically (without the presence of oxygen) as opposed to aerobically (with oxygen, space, worms, etc.). As an indication, in the US alone the greenhouse gas emissions from organic food waste equal the output of 42 coal-fired power plants. And that doesn’t count methane.

There are many organisations working to prevent food waste and manage donations. Start reading up at Food Tank and figure out how to give back in your community.

Buying Food Consciously And Conservatively

One thing grocery stores are implementing more and more is “ugly food”. These are foods that have the same nutritional content as any other food, just that it looks a little different from the standard grade of that food item. Buying from suppliers directly who sell ugly food is a good step to go towards as often those foods get thrown out like the rest.

Promoting conscious buying, eating, and disposing of food waste through audits and setting goals is a good start. Food waste is indicative of a system that is simply highly inefficient. Perhaps, ironically, it’s the almost scary efficiency in how we industrially produce food now that subsequently leads to such abundance and waste. However, that waste is not an effective use of resources, and from a business perspective this is simply good ESG - room for improvement, cost savings, and education. 

Being ‘conscious’ or ‘conservative’ doesn’t mean having less, it means considering what you have and making better use of it. Common sense.

Find more solid ideas for company day-to-day ESG thinking here.

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