February 19, 2016

Power of Collaboration

Carol Cone

Carol Cone ON PURPOSE

A momentous initiative for sustainability began at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a few weeks back.

As GreenBiz detailed in the article “Unilever, Nestle, USDA, Rockefeller unite to cut food waste,” 30 leaders from business, government and foundations gathered to form Champions 12.3 — the goal of the group is to cut food waste in half in the next 15 years.

It all started with this infuriating paradox: one third of all food grown and produced is never consumed. At the same time, 800 million people suffer from hunger around the globe.

This fact led the United Nations to dedicate one of their Sustainable Development Goals to eradicating food waste. These SDGs were adopted by the United Nations in September 2015 and they’re meant to “mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring no one is left behind.”

Goal Target 12.3 is to cut the per capita food waste in half by 2030. Hence why this newly formed group is called Champions 12.3.

Members include leaders of Tesco, Unilever, Nestlé, the World Resources Institute, the Rockefeller Foundation, WWF, the US Environmental Protection Agency and Oxfam America. The European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, the ministers for agriculture for the Netherlands, South Africa and Vietnam, and the US Department of Agriculture Secretary are also involved.

The issue of food waste presents several problems — beyond the obvious one of not feeding the hundreds of millions of people who don’t have enough food. Wasted food equates to $940 million in lost revenue for farmers and producers. Further, uneaten food decomposes in fields or landfills and then emits methane gas, producing 8 percent of the earth’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In fact, if food loss and waste were its own country, it would be the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter, just after the US and China.

So if the group succeeds in their pledge, they’ll not only be reducing global hunger but also improving the global economy and fighting climate change.

President of the Rockefeller Foundation Judith Rodin emphasized that, for the initiative to be successful, it needs to take a systemic approach.

“Food loss and waste happen all along the global pathway to the plate — from how smallholder farmers harvest and get crops to market, to corporate losses across supply chains, all the way to consumer waste,” she said.

The Rockefeller Foundation also recently launched a $130 million campaign called YieldWise. The campaign’s goal is to reduce food waste that occurs when moving food from third-world farms to market, initially focusing on Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania.

So what is Champions 12.3’s strategy to halve food waste by 2030? All members are committed to taking action, not just pledging their support. These actions will follow four approaches: 1) Lead by example 2) communicate the importance of reducing food loss and waste 3) showcase successful strategies and 4) advocate for investment, innovation and information sharing on the problem.

Nestlé and several of the other Champions 12.3 companies have taken the first strategy — lead by example — to heart and are committed to zero waste to landfill by 2020.

With so many powerful and influential leaders involved, Champions 12.3 has the potential to make a real impact.

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