'Breakthrough' global accounting tool for waste could save billions

By David Burrows

- Last updated on GMT

In the EU, 20% of the food produced is wasted – the equivalent of 88 million tonnes every year. © iStock.com / MementoImage
In the EU, 20% of the food produced is wasted – the equivalent of 88 million tonnes every year. © iStock.com / MementoImage

Related tags: Food waste, Greenhouse gas

A new global standard to measure food loss and waste will help firms save billions of pounds and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

The food loss and waste accounting and reporting standard (FLW) has been heralded as a “powerful breakthrough”​ meaning for the first time companies will be able to “consistently and credibly”​ measure, monitor and manage food waste. 

The standard has been developed for a “diverse audience”​ and will be invaluable for both large and small businesses, as well as countries and governments, according to the briefing published alongside the announcement​.

“We have a powerful new tool that will help governments and businesses save money, protect resources and ensure more people get the food they need,”​ explained Andrew Steer, president and CEO at the World Resources Institute, which developed the tool. 

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the Consumer Goods Forum are also involved in the multi-stakeholder partnership. Nestlé, which confirmed it played a key role in developing FLW, said the standard is a “massive step”​ in fighting food loss and waste. 

Food waste headache 

Understanding the levels of food waste within supply chains has proved extremely difficult. Last month the UK – a country ahead of the game in terms of waste analysis – announced food waste from its grocery supply chain was significantly lower​ than previously thought. 

In Europe, meanwhile, the European Commission has promised to unveil a common measurement technique for food waste as part of its new Circular Economy​ package.

The Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella recently confirmed​ that he was also mulling over clearer guidelines on food donations, which will clarify the safety and hygiene requirements, as well as the fiscal implications. Regulations around date labelling are also being reviewed. 

A mandatory target to reduce food waste was controversially dropped from the package. However, revisions published last week​ suggest member states should “take measures to promote prevention of food waste in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development [] and in particular its target of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030”.​ 

Food loss and waste costs $940bn (€826bn) a year and generates about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In the EU, 20% of the food produced is wasted – the equivalent of 88 million tonnes every year, worth €143bn. 

“The scale of the problem of food loss and waste can be difficult to comprehend,” ​said UN Environment Programme executive director Achim Steiner.

Having this new standard by which to measure food loss and waste will not only help us understand just how much food is not making it to our mouths, but will help set a baseline for action.”​ 

Michiel Kernkamp, CEO of Nestlé Nordic, said the FLW standard will help further optimise the company’s ongoing efforts to cut food waste.

“We clearly see this standard as a massive, global step in fighting food loss and waste,”​ he said. 

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