New Food Loss and Waste Protocol Under Negotiation
Food waste is a growing problem all around the world. Restaurants, processed food industries, and farming operations all discard edible and non-edible foodstuffs for various reasons. UNEP and the FAO estimate that annually over 1 billion tons of food, much of it edible, is thrown out.
Each industry has a different reason for tossing out so much edible food. Restaurants, for example, must often comply with rigorous public health protocols that prevent them from donating uneaten food or using foods that have exceeded their recommended shelf lives. Farmers often dispose of raw agricultural products that fail to meet certain aesthetic standards like size, color, or sheen. Some of this food is wasted for good reasons, others less so. For these reasons, “Think Eat Save,” a campaign to reduce global food waste, was the theme for the 2013 World Environment Day.
Now, a global multistakeholder initiative dubbed The Food Loss and Waste Protocol is taking shape. The FLW Protocol is a collaboration between the World Resources Institute, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the FAO, UNEP, and others. It is designed to be a global accounting and reporting mechanism that members can use to identify sources of food waste in global supply chains. Identification is the first step towards figuring out how to reduce and eventually eliminate food waste.
The FLW Protocol is still in the process of negotiation. As of March, there is a working draft available for comments and feedback. Members of the initiative are taking it seriously, and actors like the Business Council for Sustainable Development Singapore is already actively soliciting feedback on the draft.
Unlike more aspirational international initiatives, the FLW Protocol is action-oriented and results-focused. The 200-page draft is very explicit about how to identify different kinds of waste in a variety of sectors. Importantly, it is also very flexible in terms of quantification methodology so as to be accessible to a variety of businesses, governmental agencies, and others. Overall, this initiative is an important first step for addressing global food waste. Before we can know how to fix it, we need to know where it is and why it is occurring. Accounting measures will help us do just that.