Green Hotels Association
    April 2013  


3 REASONS BUSINESSES SHOULD TARGET FOOD WASTE

Why is Sainsbury’s, the UK’s third largest supermarket chain, encouraging customers to make apple pie with leftover bread? One reason: Sainsbury’s wants to reduce consumer food waste. Doing so can boost sustainability, increase the company’s cachet with customers and fatten its bottom line.

Food waste is a problem that extends beyond the landfills, where organics release methane, a potent greenhouse gas. When we throw away food, we also throw away the money, natural resources (water, energy, land, oil for transport) and human capital used to produce, process, transport and sell the wasted food. A full 40% of edible food in the US goes uneaten, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s report. The average American wastes ten times as much food as someone in Southeast Asia and 50% more than an American living in the 1970s.

With households accounting for 44% of US food waste, restaurants for 33% and grocery stores for 11%, according to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), solutions must focus on all three sectors.

Can we do it? Reducing household food waste can be accomplished. The United Kingdom shrank household food waste 18% between 2006-2007 and 2010, according to the not-for-profit Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP). How? Through government pressure, business partnerships and consumer campaigns. WRAP identified and targeted factors that contribute to household food waste, including a lack of food planning, buying more than necessary, not storing food effectively, confusion around date labels and freezer-safe foods, incorrect portioning and uncertainty around leftovers. Through WRAP’s “Love Food Hate Waste” campaign, as well as concerted industry efforts and government pressure, UK households changed behaviors.

Without government pressure and the likes of WRAP in the US, restaurants, grocers and other food businesses should step forward to help US households reduce food waste. There is a strong business case here for taking action.

For one thing, businesses targeting consumer food waste provide a valuable service―helping customers stretch their food dollars and reduce the $2,200 the average household loses to wasted food. This, in turn, should increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. Sainsbury’s, for example, found its customers appreciate efforts to help them save money in a difficult economy, with 20% reporting they were trying to throw less food away because food costs were of prime concern.

In addition, businesses targeting food waste reduction can help make food supply systems more efficient, freeing up resources to feed hungry people and reducing environmental impacts. Consumer awareness of such corporate social responsibility activities is linked to increased customer loyalty, willingness to pay premium prices, and lower reputational risks in times of crisis.

The bottom line: Putting consumer food waste on the agenda can boost a company’s reputation and revenue―and be good for the planet to boot.

Himmelfarb, Nancy, “3 reasons businesses should target
consumer food waste,” Greenbiz.com, January 11, 2013

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