The responsibility of corporates to take on the food waste challenge in Australia
By Ria Smith, Health, Safety & Environment Director, Australia
Friday, 24 November, 2017
It is no surprise that food waste in Australia is a significant issue. As the population grows, so too does its food needs, and with this increase in food production comes an inevitable increase in food waste.
In fact, each year we are wasting one-third of the food that is produced for human consumption, totaling 1.3 billion tons of food. This food waste has one of the largest environmental impacts on the planet. Corporate companies have a key role to play in taking on responsibility to reduce food waste, given their contribution to the problem and ability to make changes that impact the whole community.
The impact of food waste on the environment does sound daunting, but the future is not bleak. Reducing food waste actually sits in the top 10 solutions to climate change, providing us an opportunity to actively reverse the damage being done. Given that each year food waste creates over three gigatonnes CO2 equivalent, which is more than that produced by Russia and India, doing so is of great importance. With input from one of the largest contributors — corporates — we can take one big step forward for reducing food waste. Starting by reducing food waste in the supply chain, companies are not only helping the community, they are also gaining significant financial benefit. It has been estimated that for every dollar invested in food loss and waste reduction, there is a median return of $14, giving companies a return on their investment.
Taking on this challenge cannot be done in solitary. At Sodexo, our goal is to work alongside corporates to support their food waste management. We are uniquely positioned to help. With a supply chain of over 150,000 enterprises, 427,000 employees and 100 million consumers, there are many ways we can make a difference and revolutionise the way our industry deals with food waste. We developed the Better Tomorrow 2025 Strategy with this in mind. Nine measurable commitments were developed in accordance with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to guide our journey to 2025. For each of our roles as an employer, a service provider and a corporate citizen, we have made a commitment to make a positive measurable difference for individuals, communities and the environment.
Of these nine commitments, we hold three issues close to our heart that need to be addressed with urgency: hunger, gender and waste. Beyond our own operations, we work closely with companies to support their sustainability commitments in the on-site services we deliver.
Utilising equipment and processes that reduce organic waste and non-organic waste through recycling and sorting solutions for food waste can be integrated into facilities management — that being said, we do face challenges in Australia. There can be limitations within companies and regional areas that may not have separate collections or solutions for waste management. This means, even if waste management is a focus, there is no infrastructure in place to support companies to do so. That is why we have shifted the focus towards prevention. Cutting pre-consumer waste by managing portions, menu planning and reviewing internal routines, to name a few, considers all aspects within a company to avoid creating waste in the first place.
To help companies understand exactly what needs to be done to help reduce corporate food waste, we have identified two key priorities. The first priority requires companies to encourage their consumers about food waste, in order to raise awareness of the issue of food waste in Australia. Furthering this, it is important to note that facing this is not the responsibility of one person alone. The second priority highlights that reducing food waste is the responsibility of everyone in society: consumers, corporates, governments, NGOs and employees working together.
Assisting a corporate company to reduce food waste is simpler than it sounds. Take, for example, composting. Up to 70% of waste on-site is made up of food and garden waste, the majority of which can be composted in a Biobin. By taking food scraps from the kitchen and combining this with brown materials from landscaping and offices, such as paper, woodchips and cardboard, companies can take a simple step to reduce the amount of materials they are sending to landfill.
For companies looking to begin tackling their food waste issues, they can start by implementing tools, equipment and/or processes that target waste directly. For example, Sodexo’s Food Platform uses a tool for menu planning based on customer demand to optimise food production and reduce otherwise avoidable food waste. We have established a global program, WasteWatch — powered by LeanPath — which helps to identify causes and define action plans to prevent waste. Sites implementing WasteWatch can reduce food waste by 45% in two to six months.
Through value-added on-site services, corporates and communities can be given the support they need to spark their own endeavours. Take, for example, Sodexo’s WasteLESS week. This annual awareness intervention engages clients and consumers through training and awareness on waste issues and the impact they have on the environment, often yielding short-term initiatives that turn into permanent solutions. WasteLESS week challenges everyone involved to change their habits and make a difference for our collective environmental impact.
As a founding partner of non-profit organisation the International Food Waste Coalition, Sodexo brings organisations together worldwide to reduce food waste throughout the food services value chain. Collaboration is the most effective way to reduce food waste at each stage of the process. From agricultural production to transport, from storage to processing, from retailers to restaurants, customers and even post-consumer, cooperation between stakeholders plays a vital part in the challenge to reduce food waste.
At the end of the day, the opportunity for corporates to reduce food waste is based on one simple thing: taking action. Companies need to make corporate waste management a focus if they want to be proactive about reducing their environmental impact. Without acknowledging the impact businesses of all sizes are having on the environment through food waste, it cannot be properly addressed.
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