The topic of food loss and waste (FLW) has gained considerable attention in recent years from government, industry, non-government organizations, and media. Attention has primarily stemmed from environmental and social responsibility perspectives. Less attention has been given to the extent to which controlling the factors that cause FLW and associated wastes enables businesses along the entire food chain to markedly improve their financial performance and competitiveness. In the home and in restaurants, addressing food waste saves consumers’ money by reducing the cost of food purchased and potentially lowering municipal taxes.
A national effort and resultant report that Value Chain Management International completed in partnership with Second Harvest in Toronto entitled “The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste” quantified the true scale of FLW in Canada and its root causes. It also established a roadmap for reducing waste from production to consumer. Implementing the roadmap would increase industry’s economic performance and help address food insecurity. It would also markedly reduce the food industry’s environmental footprint, not least because the CO² and blue water footprints of total FLW are greater than that of food consumed.
Food waste causes immense financial costs, especially as it never occurs in isolation — energy, labour, water, and other resources used to produce and distribute food are also wasted.
The research estimates that total avoidable and unavoidable FLW occurring annually along the Canadian food value chain equates to 35.5 million metric tonnes, of which 11.2 million metric tonnes (32%) is avoidable FLW (the weight equivalent of almost 95 CN Towers). Based on the consumer (retail and hotels, restaurants and institutions) sales, the value of avoidable FLW equates to $49.5 billion, representing 51.8% of the money Canadians spent on food purchased from retail stores in Canada in 2016.
Food waste causes immense financial costs, especially as it never occurs in isolation — energy, labour, water, and other resources used to produce and distribute food are also wasted. For businesses, the total cost of waste occurring along a value chain can exceed the combined margins of the involved companies. For consumers, avoidable food waste can increase the cost of food by 10% or more.
In summary, food waste is a symptom of ineffective and inefficient processes occurring along the value chain. Food waste that occurs in the home is a symptom of individual consumers’ behaviour. Reducing the impact of food waste on the environment in an era of climate change and increasing food insecurity is critical to our planet’s sustainability.
Martin Gooch, PhD
CEO, Value Chain Management International Inc.