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Industry gets together to tackle food waste

03 July 2016

Suzanne Gill reports on the launch of the world’s first global standard to measure food loss and waste. The Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard (FLW Standard) presents a protocol to define, measure, report on and manage food loss and waste. 

The contents of the FLW Standard were recently unveiled at the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) conference in Copenhagen by the International Resources Institute in partnership with a group of leading international organisations such as the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), EU-funded FUSIONS project, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), WRAP (The Waste and Resources Action Programme) and the World Resources Institute.

It is a fact that a significant share of food grown for human consumption is never eaten. The FAO has estimate that one-third, by weight, of all food produced in the World was lost or wasted in 2009.

However, countries, cities, companies, and other entities currently lack sufficient insight into how much, why, and where food and/or associated inedible parts are removed from the food supply chain. This makes it difficult to develop strategies and prioritise actions to prevent food loss and waste or to identify the most productive use of any waste that does arise. Further, there is little clarity about what justifies waste and thoughts vary widely. Without a consistent set of definitions or an accounting and reporting framework, it is difficult to compare data within or among entities over time to help draw any useful conclusions.

Measuring waste
Working on the premise that ‘you cannot manage what you do not measure’, the FLW Standard aims to help quantify food loss and waste and to encourage consistency and transparency of reported data to provide an important first step in developing strategies to minimise waste.

The FLW Standard is the first-ever set of global definitions and reporting requirements which enables companies, countries and others to consistently and credibly measure, report on and manage food loss and waste in the same way and on an even playing field. The standard comes as a growing number of governments, companies and other entities have already made a commitment to reducing food loss and waste.

In 2015 the CGF, which represents more than 400 of the world’s largest retailers and manufacturers from 70 countries, adopted a resolution for its members to reduce food waste from their operations by 50% by 2025. It now intends to use the FLW Standard to measure base lines and progression towards these goals.

Tesco announced its ambition to lead on reducing global food waste in 2013, taking a farm-to-fork approach. “We are committed to reducing food waste not only in our own operations but through working in partnership with our suppliers,” explained Mark Little, head of Food Waste Reduction at Tesco. “We are the only UK retailer to publish independently assured data on the levels of waste in our stores and distribution centres. Our approach to do this is in conformance with the requirements of the new FLW Standard.

“Publishing data on our own operations has allowed us to identify food waste hot spots and take action to tackle these. In addition, being transparent about the levels of waste has helped us raise awareness of the issue among our suppliers, colleagues and customers and has given us the license to engage with them to tackle the issue from farm to fork. “The FLW standard now provides us with a common accounting and reporting framework for measuring food loss and waste and we hope it will enable others to publish their data and take action to tackle the issue.”

Nestle was also keen to participate in the development of the FLW Standard to ensure it has access to a robust tool to measure its own progress to tackle the issues of waste. “Nestle has already succeeded in reducing 75% of the waste generated within our factories,” explained Pascal Greverath, assistant vice president, environmental sustainability at Nestle. “Since our foundation 150 years ago Nestle has contributed to reducing food waste by transforming perishable raw materials into safe, value-added food products. One-quarter of our factories are already zero waste and we have a target that by 2020 we will be a totally zero waste company.”

Commenting at the launch event of the FLW Standard, Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute, said: “This standard is a breakthrough for companies and governments looking to reduce food loss and waste. For the first time, armed with this standard, countries and companies will be able to quantify how much food is lost and wasted and where this occurs. They are now able to report on this in a highly credible and consistent manner.

“There is simply no reason that so much food should be lost and wasted. The FLW Standard will reduce economic losses for the consumer and food industry and alleviate the pressure on natural resources.”

Voluntary standard
The FLW Standard is voluntary and has been designed for users of all types and sizes and across all economic sectors. It can be used to produce an FLW inventory to inform an entity’s own internal decision-making; to report on results of an FLW inventory to comply with a government, industry association, or other third-party FLW-reduction effort; and/or to inform development of an FLW policy, initiative, or program that customises its own guidance built around the FLW Standard.

While the standard is firm on the definitions for describing the scope of an FLW inventory and the requirements for accounting and reporting results, it does allow users to choose which particular scope is most appropriate for their own FLW inventory. Users, for example, can choose whether to quantify both food and associated inedible parts removed from the food supply chain, only food, or only associated inedible parts.

Copies of the FLW Standard can be freely downloaded from

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