New research finds that for every $1 companies invested to reduce food loss and waste, they saved $14 in operating costs, providing concrete evidence of the clear return on investment from food loss and waste reduction.

In a first-of-its kind analysis, “The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste study, conducted on behalf of Champions 12.3, a conglomerate of about 30 CEOs, government ministers, global institution executives and civil society leaders to globally inspire ambition and mobilize action to reduce food loss and waste, evaluated financial cost and benefit data for 1,200 sites across 700 companies in 17 countries, finding that nearly every site realized a positive return on their investment to reduce food waste. The types of investments companies made include quantifying and monitoring food loss and waste, training staff on practices to reduce waste, changing food storage and handling processes, changing packaging to extend shelf life, changing date labels and other staff and technology investments.

The 14:1 return on investment comes from not buying food that would have been lost or wasted, increasing the share of food that is sold to customers, introducing new product lines made from food that otherwise would have been lost or wasted, reducing waste management costs and other savings.  

The report recommends leaders from governments and business take a “target, measure, act” approach to reduce the amount of food lost and wasted. First, every government and company should set a target to halve food loss and waste, in line with Target 12.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. Second, governments and companies need to start measuring food loss and waste, so they can identify hotspots and monitor progress over time. Third, leaders need to act, implementing programs and practices for reducing food loss and waste.  

"The CGF’s members are already committed to reducing food waste globally, as set out in our 2015 Food Waste Resolution,” says Peter Freedman, managing director of The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), Silver Spring, Md. “The compelling business case now presented by this research gives all of us in the consumer industry one more reason to accelerate implementation initiatives. We at the CGF are dedicated to providing practical implementation support and advice to our members, consistent with Champions 12.3’s ‘target, measure, act’ approach."

“The success we saw in the United Kingdom proves that it’s possible to make real inroads in reducing food waste,” adds Liz Goodwin, senior fellow and director of food loss and waste for World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C., and the new chair of the London Waste and Recycling Board, UK. “The challenge now is to get every country, major city and company to realize that reducing food loss and waste is a win-win. There are far too many tough, intractable problems in the world – food loss and waste doesn’t have to be one of them.”