Last month, a report released by the Champions 12.3 coalition titled The Business Case for Reducing Food Waste outlined the severity of the global food waste crisis and the urgent need for change across companies, cities and countries. The report analyzed over 1,000 companies and found a median return on investment of 14:1. Regardless of where your business fits into the food production system, a comprehensive food waste reduction strategy is worth the investment.
A survey we conducted on this emerging issue in 2013 found that not only do 80% of consumers consider food waste an issue, but that there is a connection between a company’s sustainability initiatives and consumers’ purchasing decisions. Those sentiments have only increased since our study. Consumers seek food companies that take innovative action on sustainability issues – and they’re more likely to purchase from the companies that do.
And consumers are now more vocal than ever, spurring businesses—from local produce cooperatives to mainstream ag to multinational corporations—to join the conversation on food waste and commit to combating the food loss crisis.
Food waste reduction should be a pillar of every company’s sustainability program. Let’s make it happen.
Educate consumers, build your brand.
Investing in consumer awareness and education campaigns can help generate stronger stakeholder relationships, leading to long-term payoffs for your business. Significant levels of food waste occur close to the fork. Non-profits and other interest groups have taken the lead in this space recently, launching thought-provoking public service campaigns and education initiatives, but there is immense opportunity for brands to leverage market power to affect positive change. Investing in consumer education is an effective way not only to reduce the volume of lost food, but also to position your company as an expert resource, build your brand, and engage current and prospective customers.
Reframe the issue.
At a recent panel on food waste held at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, panelist Sam Kass of Innit described this “branding problem” as the need for positive messaging that reframes potential food waste into nutritious, safe and usable ingredients. Create an opportunity to equip your consumers with the know-how to combat food waste – and position your company as a clear leader in the process. Eliminate confusion by implementing clear and consistent labels on your products. Walmart standardized labeling for all private-label products last year, demonstrating the feasibility of such a change on a massive scale. Or redefine your standards for usable food, transforming consumer perceptions of quality in the process.
Big ideas = big change.
Think creatively, apply innovative ideas and seek diverse collaborators to inspire change. In March, South by Southwest announced a partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation to end food waste at the annual conference within five years. Food retailer and manufacturer Kroger redefined every stage of its supply chain to implement comprehensive waste reduction strategies, from operating in zero waste manufacturing facilities to practicing waste diversion initiatives in all retail locations. These initiatives have paved the way for countless solutions to come. Drive change and demonstrate leadership wherever you’re at by committing to reducing food loss in new and exciting ways.
For more on the business benefits of investing in food loss reduction strategies, view the full report from the Champions 12.3 coalition.
Here at Charleston|Orwig, we've taken a keen interest in food waste for years. We've instituted measures to reduce food waste within our own offices, and in 2013, we hosted guests ranging from local and organic food advocates to corporate proponents of genetically modified crops as we revealed the results of a C|O commissioned food waste survey.
To learn more about the business benefits for reducing food waste at your company, contact Mark Gale at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 262.563.5129.