How to stop wasting food

OECD Observer Business brief
Group Vice President, Sustainable Development, Sodexo
"Each year about one-third of all the food produced globally ends up wasted even as hundreds of millions of people go hungry."






Neil Barrett
Group Vice President
Sustainable Development

Every day, 980 million people go hungry, but it is not a problem of scarcity. More than enough food is produced for everyone on the planet and for the foreseeable future–in fact, it is estimated that food wasted in the United States and Europe alone could feed the world three times over. Yet one in five people are going hungry and efforts to increase agricultural production threaten to accelerate climate change. Both are unnecessary.

The real problem is that production, distribution, preparation and consumer food waste results in approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption lost or wasted every year (1.3 billion tonnes). What can people do to reduce food waste?

As a quality of life service provider, serving 75 million consumers every day, Sodexo is tackling food waste on several fronts, encompassing all aspects of food production and distribution as well as communication and awareness campaigns targeted at both employees and consumers. By focusing its waste reduction efforts on the processes within its sphere of influence, Sodexo’s 428,000 employees contribute to the effort and allow us to track our performance and progress.

Given its position in the value chain and the breadth of its economic activity, Sodexo is well placed to contribute to more efficient consumption. Because of its overview of the food chain, from farm to consumer to garbage can, we are able to take a holistic view of all aspects of food waste, ensuring that efforts to reduce waste in one area do not generate waste in another.

Industry-wide collaboration across the value chain is an important prerequisite for establishing where waste principally occurs and where innovation is best introduced. Participation in business and government fora, where collaboration, sharing of good practices and innovation are “institutionalised” as a way of ensuring mutual company benefits and food waste reduction, is necessary and important.

In addition to food waste, our clients and consumers have always been interested in food safety, quality, traceability and consistency of product along the value chain which can extend over continents and oceans. For example, farmed fish wasted on a plate in London, that was farmed in Scotland, grown with fish meal, including fish caught off the coast of South America in an unsustainable fashion, can deprive coastal Peruvians/Ecuadorians of protein and local livelihoods.

How can we empower consumers to act, tell them the impact they’re having, make them feel good about their contribution? Annually, Sodexo organises a programme called WasteLESS Week involving thousands of consumers from corporate employees to teachers and students at all levels, on the subject of food waste. Sodexo’s WasteLESS Week has one simple message at its heart: less waste means a better quality of life for everyone. Through the use of personal empowerment, WasteLESS Week helps people to understand the linkage between their actions and quality of life in their community, engaging employees, consumers and clients.

There can be no more fundamental quality-of-life outcome than a world in which 100% of the food produced for human consumption is consumed, and where people everywhere have adequate food to meet their needs.




©OECD Observer No 299, Q2 2014

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