Timed with COP27, the new ‘123 Pledge’ kicked off to accelerate action to reduce food loss and waste worldwide. The Pledge challenges governments, businesses, chefs and other important actors in the food system to commit to concrete steps that will make reducing food loss and waste a part of their action agendas on greenhouse gas emissions.
The way food is produced and consumed today results in high rates of food loss and waste. An estimated 14% of food is lost in the food supply chain from post-harvest up to wholesale included. Meanwhile, 17% of food is wasted at retail and consumer level. This food loss and waste costs the global economy over USD $1 trillion annually. It’s also responsible for more than four times the greenhouse gas emissions of all annual aviation combined.
“Food loss and waste drives up to 10% of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, yet just a handful of countries mention it in their national climate plans. None of the world’s biggest emitters are on that list,” said Liz Goodwin, senior fellow and director of food loss and waste at World Resources Institute, which serves as secretariat of Champions 12.3. “Despite some real bright spots, the world is woefully behind where it needs to be. Without real action to halve food loss and waste, it will be very difficult to solve the climate crisis.”
“With the damaging effects climate change has on food security and nutrition, and the negative effects of agrifood systems on climate change and the environment across the world, now is the moment for decisive action to transform how our agrifood systems operate and reduce food loss and waste, providing benefits from both a mitigation and adaptation angle to assure better production, better nutrition, better environment and better life,” said Máximo Torero Cullen, chief economist of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “Commitment from all stakeholders – from governments, private sector companies, small producers and civil society to consumers – will be required if we are to make a dent on the issue of FLW and achieve the aspirations of the 2030 Agenda. This is the importance of the #123Pledge and the collaborative efforts championed by the Food Is Never Waste Coalition.”
The ‘123 Pledge’ is coordinated by Champions 12.3, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It is also supported by WRAP, WWF, and Rabobank.
“I fully support the ‘123 Pledge’ given the critical importance of tackling food loss and waste if we are to deliver against our collective climate goals. To deliver this we need action across the supply chain, from farm to fork,” said Richard Swannell, interim CEO, WRAP. “Helping citizens and companies reduce food loss and waste has never been more salient given the global food crises we are all facing. WRAP will work with governments, businesses and people to reduce costly food waste at home and across the supply chain as part of our shared global ambition to reduce the enormous contribution food waste makes to climate change, and keeping 1.5 alive.”
Groups taking the ‘123 Pledge’ must meet a number of requirements designed to ensure impact, progress and transparency toward a worldwide goal of halving food loss and waste by 2030, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3. Commitments must include a climate angle, be timebound, and measurable. Those taking the Pledge must commit to providing annual progress reports to the Food Is Never Waste Coalition or to Champions 12.3. Annual progress reports will contribute to the Global Stocktake (GST), which will conclude at COP28 in 2023.
Commitments must also tie to at least one of five priority areas:
- Integrating food loss and waste reduction into country and company climate strategies;
- Reducing food loss and waste along supply chains;
- Stimulating action at the national and subnational (city) level;
- Measuring, reporting and creating policy and regulatory frameworks for food loss and waste reduction; and
- Supporting behavior change at the consumer level through awareness, education and enabling conditions.
In addition to promoting a key climate action, the Pledge’s organizers hope to ultimately help families save money during times of high food prices by spurring actions that will help them understand how to ensure more of what they buy gets eaten. British households are now spending £780 per year on average on food they throw out, with similar figures across Europe and North America. Retailers, governments and others can help consumers better understand the cost savings and simple steps to preserve food such as meal planning and using their freezer more effectively to store leftovers.
Already, a number of commitments have been pledged, including:
- The Government of The Netherlands has committed to make an active effort to make the Farm-to-Fork strategy more ambitious at EU level. Now the Farm-to Fork Strategy aims to reduce food waste at consumption and retail level. The Netherlands will make an effort, within the EU to achieve the goal of reducing food loss and waste in the entire food chain, under the Farm to Fork Strategy, which is at the heart of the European Green Deal.
- Unilever has committed to continue to focus on halving food waste in its direct operations by 2025. Its Hellmann’s brand will inspire and enable 100 million consumers every year till 2025 to be more resourceful with their food at home and waste less. They are expanding the geographical scope of their consumer-facing program covering North America, Latin America and Europe with country focus on US, CA, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, UK, Spain, Greece.
- Rabobank has committed to execute a new series of Food Waste Challenges in 2023 to help 75 foodservice clients in The Netherlands with an average of 35% food waste reduction. It’s part of Rabobank’s – a food and agriculture bank operating in this sector for 125 years – belief that reducing food loss and waste is one of the top three levers to reduce carbon emissions and is important work toward a dream of a net positive food system.
- World Resources Institute has committed to work through Champions 12.3 with farmer-facing companies to engage 200,000 smallholder farmers to start to tackle on-farm and near-farm food losses by the end of 2024, with a longer term goal of those farmers halving farm and near-farm losses by 2030.
- WWF has committed to leveraging its global network of offices to influence governments and industries to immediately meet the call to action.
- WRAP has pledged to deliver food loss and waste projects aligned with the Pledge impact areas in countries with a combined population of over one billion by the year 2030.
- Too Good to Go has committed to 1) encouraging and supporting governments in 10 countries to shape and improve food waste policy measures through its public affairs engagement; rescuing 1 billion Magic Bags of surplus food from going to waste through its mobile app; and 3) raising food waste awareness with 250 million consumers through its awareness campaigns focused on date labelling, school food waste and more.
- Costa Rican FLW Network commits to improve its efforts in food loss and waste awareness, research and networking, resulting in at least three successful intervention cases by 2025, as expressed as a percentage of food loss and waste reduction – and its equivalent emissions – to be shared and scaled.
- LeanPath has committed to working with its client partners to prevent an amount of food waste equivalent to 50 million meals by 2025.
- Steven M. Finn has committed to developing graduate level course and webinar/blog content to raise awareness and directly educate hundreds of citizens by the end of 2025 on the scope and scale of the food waste challenge, the critical linkage between food waste and the SDGs, and solutions and change initiatives to accelerate food waste reduction in line with Target 12.3.
“If we’re going to address the dual climate and biodiversity crisis, we can’t ignore the connection to food loss and waste. Our government and business leaders must recognize this connection and halt the expansion of agriculture at the expense of nature,” said Pete Pearson, global initiative lead for the Food Circularity program at WWF. “We have the tools to maximize the availability of food for humans and feed for animals while also addressing global food insecurity – but we can’t do it without making the reduction of food loss and waste a global imperative. WWF is committed to leveraging our global network of offices to influence governments and industries to immediately meet our call to action.”