Creating platforms for smallholder farmers to sell their excess stock; bringing processing facilities closer to farmers; and encouraging consumers to eat a more diverse selection of vegetables – these are just some of the ways businesses are tackling food loss and waste to reach net zero.
Getting to net zero requires a transformation of the food system. This “challenge of epic proportions” as described by Richard Swannell, International Director, WRAP, can only be overcome through collaboration.
The role of businesses in tackling food loss and waste was the central theme of the webinar “Target, Measure, Act, Invest: How businesses can help deliver a net zero food system for all.” Co-hosted by P4G and WRAP, the July 28 webinar was an affiliate session at the Pre-Summit to the United Nations Food Systems Summit.
Ian de Cruz, Global Director, P4G delivered the keynote where he emphasized the need to invest in market-based partnerships that could be applied in developing countries. He highlighted P4G’s FLAWLESS partnership with WRAP as a great example of implementing a proven concept to reduce food loss and waste in countries like Mexico, South Africa and soon Indonesia. The partnership takes the “Target- Measure-Act” approach and expands it to a “Target-Measure-Act-Invest” model. In this model, governments set the targets and corporations commit to ambitious Voluntary Agreements to achieve a measurable reduction in food loss and waste. Civil societies bring transparency and accountability to the process. To attract the investment needed to scale this approach, the partnership is developing innovative financial products that banks could offer companies to incentivize them to act.
“Partnerships are the key to unlocking scale and to unlocking impact,” said Andre Nel, General Manager Sustainability at Pick ‘N Pay the largest online grocery business in Africa. He shared that international learning and local action supported by the government were two notable benefits they derived from being part of global initiatives including the 10x20x30 and WRAP’s Voluntary Agreement in South Africa. He emphasized the need for a platform, such as the Voluntary Agreement, that provides the accurate data required for retailers like Pick ‘N Pay to identify food waste in their operations so they can act on it.
To eliminate food loss and waste, companies must also address it from the production side and both Nel and Thea Konig, Senior Global External Affairs Manager, Unilever, gave specific examples of their work with smallholder farmers. Unilever built processing facilities near tomato farmers in India to reduce waste and ensure better quality ingredients for the company’s food products. Pick ‘N Pay links farmers to buying and selling platforms where farmers can sell product or donate excess stock so nothing goes to waste. They also have a line of “not perfect” fruit and vegetables in stores that creates additional income for smallholder farmers.
The 2021 Food Waste Index Report from the United Nations Environment Programme and WRAP found that globally the average person wastes more than 260 pounds of food per year. This is an issue that needs to be tackled throughout the supply chain from producers to retailers and households. Konig mentioned Unilever’s consumer-focused efforts, which include awareness raising, steering consumers toward and offering more plant-based products, and encouraging the consumption of a diverse selection of vegetables that are good for the planet. These steps advance Unilever’s ambition of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their own operations by 2030 and to be net zero across the value chain by 2039.
For businesses to take bold action to deliver on their net zero targets, they need access to capital that will allow them to pilot projects that can later be scaled. German Sturznegger, Water, Sanitation and Solid Waste Lead Specialist at the Inter-American Development Bank outlined the bank’s vision to help governments and companies reduce emissions. He spoke about IADB’s support in the collection of baseline data since there can be no action without measurement. He also said that IADB is working with commercial banks to develop financial products such as credit lines for companies interested in investing in new technologies or processes to reduce food loss and waste. Over the course of the webinar Sturznegger shared Latin America’s challenge of lacking market intelligence on the financial needs of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). He noted that banks were ready with financial instruments but in order to make a business case for investment they needed more insight into what the financial needs and pain points were.
de Cruz pointed out that there was investment case already and what was required especially with SMEs was an element of aggregation. The next challenge for P4G is to work with innovative partnerships that develop financial products which provide incentives for some of the upfront capital investment needed for SMEs in developing countries to reduce food loss and waste in their operations.
As Nel rightly said, “Food waste is a complex issue. If it were simple, we would have solved it already.” While this webinar didn’t have all the answers, it provided a way forward with tangible solutions to begin addressing some of the food system’s most urgent needs.
Watch the full recording here.