On October 7, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), WRAP, and P4G co-hosted two parallel webinars on “Tackling the Food Waste Funding Gap: Financing food waste prevention to combat climate change.” The sessions demonstrated the importance of halving food waste as a demand-side climate mitigation measure and clarified how developing countries can leverage financial mechanisms to deliver national food waste prevention strategies.
Adriana Zacarias Farah, Head of Global Opportunities for Sustainable Development Goals, UNEP, noted how current systems are not doing enough to reduce food waste, especially since it has not been included in countries nationally determined contributions (NDCs). She shared the key messages from UNEP’s Food Waste Index Report released in March 2021, which highlighted the higher rates of food loss in lower- and middle-income countries. Recognizing the need to build capacity at the country level, UNEP has responded by setting up regional working groups to measure waste and set up strategies to reduce it. Underscoring the planetary crisis and the need to rethink food systems, Zacarias stated, “We cannot afford to continue wasting food the way we are doing it.”
Richard Swannell, International Director, WRAP highlighted the environmental, social, and financial implications of food waste. Pulling from WRAP’s research on the costs and benefits of tackling food waste, he noted the excellent return on investment: for every $1 invested, there was a $7 benefit, where 90% of companies got their money back in two years. However, many businesses don’t know how to measure their waste, and if they can’t measure, they can’t act. That’s why WRAP has deployed resources for countries around the world to more effectively measure food waste. Swannell also noted the importance of tackling household food waste through behavior change campaigns, which result in significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
Noting the challenge of a lack of financing for food loss and waste, Ian de Cruz, Global Director, shared P4G’s approach to market-based solutions rooted in developing countries that can transform the value chain. With partnerships like FLAWLESS that take a “Target, Measure, Act, Invest” approach, corporations in South Africa, Mexico and Indonesia have committed to reducing food loss and waste aligned with countries development and climate priorities. “We have this structured approach and entrepreneurs out there implementing it. Now let’s crowd in on implementation so we can replicate and scale together,” de Cruz said.
Supporting the business case for food loss and waste, Ben Valk, Global Head Food and Agri Partnerships for Rabobank shared the finance solutions that Rabobank provides, such as its loan to Ekoplaza, an organic supermarket chain, that rewards the company for meeting food loss and waste reduction targets.
Geeta Sethi, Advisor and Global Lead for Food Systems at the World Bank underscored the urgent need for massive financing of systematic measures to reduce food waste. Seeing the private sector as the key change agent, Sethi noted the importance of getting investors with deep pockets to think of the food sector as a crucial part of decarbonization. They will need to address a broad set of solutions, including better infrastructure, storage and refrigeration. First, organizations and governments need to gather the data and analytics about where loss is happening across the value chain, so they can convince and bring the right people to the table. “Once we put together exciting pipelines to mobilize this size of capital, I’m confident it would be much easier to de-risk initially and then get into big returns,” Sethi said.
Expanding on the challenge of weak NDCs on food waste, Patty Fong, Program Director, Climate and Health & Well-being at the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, shared the Alliance’s findings after assessing the NDCs of 14 countries. The report showed that food loss and waste was frequently overlooked and objectives around food were mostly focused on the supply side. The lack of knowledge and robust data on food loss and waste has made it challenging for countries to consider this in adaptation matters, so the Alliance is working on tools to fill in data gaps and develop measures to better integrate food waste mitigation.
Rita Schuster, Waste & Circular Economy Lead at the Technical Support Unit of the NAMA Facility, which aims to support developing countries in implementing ambitious nationally appropriate mitigation actions, highlighted a lack of projects that tackle food waste. She encouraged more organizations to submit their solutions to create a pipeline of projects that reduce food waste at scale.
During the discussion section with questions from the audience, speakers emphasized the importance of addressing the problem with local solutions and showing how financial instruments can work to attract greater investment. Global actors need to create transparency throughout the value chain to ensure this investment also reaches farmers and small and medium enterprises for a more equitable food system. Ending the discussion, the panelists recognized that while there may not be enough time to strengthen NDCs this year or bring this to COP26, it was imperative to start the drumbeat to include food loss and waste as a major agenda at COP27 and to incorporate food waste across the NDCs by 2025.
Watch the full webinars here.