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Food Waste SDG Target 12.3: Progress and Looking Ahead to 2030

September 30, 2020 | Insights,

Today, Champions 12.3, a broad coalition of businesses, governments and other organizations championing food waste action, is holding its annual progress event to announce how companies, and nations are tracking towards the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3 target to halve per capita global food waste by 2030. Champions 12.3 and other key players in the fight against global food waste have developed the Target-Measure-Act approach as an enabler for countries and companies committed to the SDG 12.3 goal to reduce food waste and loss rapidly and at scale. While Champions 12.3 celebrates progress today, they also draw attention to the immense size of the challenge we still face and the sheer number of organizations still needing to implement the waste reduction strategies in order to meet Target 12.3 in just 10 years.

Anthesis recognises that food waste at a 30-40% loss from farm to consumer at the global scale, is a problem of massive proportions. The pandemic has exposed the weaknesses in our global food system, increasing food waste and global hunger and impacting farmer incomes. There is a key link between the resource-intensive nature of agriculture, food waste across the supply chain and its footprint, accounting for 8% of carbon emissions globally. The announcements this week provide a hopeful yet urgent message suggesting that, as Technical Director Dr. Julian Parfitt noted, “tackling global food loss and waste is high on the list of most effective actions that are needed to stop runaway climate change.” With just 10 years to go, the world is painfully behind targets to meet the SDG 12.3 goal by 2030.

Standout Progress Tracking to Target 12.3

  • The annual assessment produced by Champions 12.3 named the UK as an exemplar for achieving a 27% reduction in waste nationwide; 260 businesses to date have committed to the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap who have collectively saved 180,000 tonnes of food from becoming waste. In addition, more than 60 businesses, 54 of which are Tesco suppliers, report food surplus and waste data publicly.
  • Tesco announced that in combination with its suppliers it has reduced food waste by 200,000 tonnes. Tesco began work in its own operations in 2013 by annually publishing its food waste data in the UK. Today it publishes food waste data in all the markets where it operates and works directly with 71 of its suppliers to further reduce waste. It has since achieved UN SDG 12.3 in its Central Europe operations.
  • A group of 10+ food retails and providers announced commitments from more than 200 of their major suppliers. They lead the “10x20x30” initiative in which they each engage 20 suppliers to halve food loss and waste by 2030. Collectively, these 200+ suppliers have taken the “Target-Measure-Act” approach with commitments to a 50% reduction target within their operations, to publish food waste data.

If our society continues to waste good food at current levels, we will not only undermine efforts to ensure food security for all, we will fatally undermine our ability to tackle the climate emergency. Now more than ever, we have no time for food waste. That is why we are urging more companies to commit to full transparency and publish their food waste data.

Dave Lewis
Tesco CEO, and Chair of Champions 12.3

Key Elements of Successful Food Waste Programs:

  • Greater transparency will drive accountability on food waste. Transparency also supports the capability to track global and regional progress against the 12.3 target.
  • Work in collaboration with supply chain. For example, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose are involved in WRAP’s new Whole Chain Projects to reduce waste across the entire supply chain from farm to store.
  • Include food loss and waste reduction in climate programs such as corporate GHG strategies and science-based target commitments.

While the announcements from Champions 12.3, WRAP and other corporate and government bodies point to progress towards Target 12.3, there is great urgency for others to follow in their footsteps. Governments and businesses not yet taking action need to boldly pursue the “Target-Measure-Action” approach now in order for the global food system to collectively meet the 2030 target.

Anthesis supports clients in ‘building back better’ towards more sustainable food systems. Our work on food loss & waste is one aspect in supporting our clients to this end. We have recently analysed a major North American retailer’s waste and food waste operational footprints to show how and where action can be taken to reduce their impact. Anthesis also supports Tesco’s suppliers in their food waste data reporting. Anthesis supports the initiative between WWF and Tesco to reduce the environmental impacts of the average shopping basket by half.

In addition, the Anthesis team is contributing to an important piece of work for Tesco and WWF in neglected territory: measuring farm stage losses. In the UK, WRAP estimates that 1.6 million tonnes of food is wasted on farms every year, which is comparable to total levels of waste in manufacturing and retail combined (WRAP 2019). Our project intends to understand the scale and the socio-economic and environmental significance of on-farm losses (in relation to other stages in the value chain), to understand what actions need to be taken to address these losses.

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