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Waste Not
Food-Systems Transformation Finally Becoming Part of the Climate Conversation

At COP28, the US Food Waste Pact, ReFED’s ‘Roadmap for Philanthropy’ and $57M from the Bezos Earth Fund are among new initiatives targeting global food-system transformation.

US Food Waste Pact engages retailers, producers to collaborate to reduce food waste

Image credit: Photomix

On Monday at COP28, nonprofit partners ReFED and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) announced the formation of the US Food Waste Pact — a national, voluntary agreement enabling pre-competitive collaboration and data-driven action to reach national and international food-waste reduction targets, including United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12.3. The US Food Waste Pact is designed to go beyond commitment-setting to drive meaningful reductions in food waste, as well as serve as a connective fabric to support other national and regional food-waste efforts across the country.

In the US, 38 percent of all food goes unsold or uneaten — a $444 billion opportunity for the nation, including $250 billion for food businesses alone. Food waste is contributing 6 percent to our national greenhouse gas emissions — mostly in methane — and consuming more than 20 percent of our nation's freshwater supply; and one in eight US consumers faces food insecurity. The US Food Waste Pact will deliver on the urgent need for a national strategy and partnership to accelerate food-waste reduction, which has been identified as a top solution to avoiding catastrophic climate change.

Launched in 2019, the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment (PCFWC) has been a model for this pre-competitive, collaborative approach to driving action in the US. From the outset, leaders of the PCFWC intended to build and prove a model that could scale. Five years later, formation of the US Food Waste Pact builds on that vision and currently includes participation by multiple PCFWC business signatories and other national players — including Ahold Delhaize USA, ALDI, Aramark, Bob’s Red Mill, Compass Group USA, Del Monte Fresh Produce Company, Lamb Weston, Inc., Raley’s, Sodexo USA, Walmart, Inc., and Whole Foods Market — with additional businesses encouraged to join.

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With WRAP serving as an advisor, ReFED and WWF designed the US Food Waste Pact around the global framework of “Target, Measure, Act.” Signatories will agree to work together alongside industry peers toward a 50 percent reduction in food waste; measure and report food-waste data to the Pact annually; and participate in working groups and pilot projects to test, implement and scale cost-effective and high-impact solutions.

“The US Food Waste Pact is all about measuring and seeing action to reduce food loss and waste,” said Pete Pearson, Global Initiative Lead of Food Circularity at WWF. “Through our work with the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment, we’ve seen how businesses respond when we help them identify the problems within their operations and also offer solutions and insights to fix them. This new initiative serves as a national platform for the private sector to show measured progress against their waste reduction goals.”

Leveraging best-in-class data methodologies, tools and resources, the US Food Waste Pact will provide signatories with detailed, custom waste analytics; industry benchmarking and solution roadmaps, as well as human and financial resources to support pilot projects among signatory participants. The Pact will anonymize and aggregate the signatories’ reported waste data before publicly sharing the results in an annual report, providing unique and valuable, detailed insights into waste trends year upon year to benefit the entire industry.

“This level of industry collaboration to reduce food waste is unprecedented and exactly what is needed to successfully address such a systems-level problem.” said Dana Gunders, Executive Director of ReFED. “The data component of the Pact — from within their own operations and from across their sector — is critical to enabling our business partners to identify where to focus their resources, while also benchmarking their efforts against the rest of the industry. Those types of insights aren’t available to businesses right now.”

The US Food Waste Pact provides a unique opportunity for food businesses to work collaboratively to drive food-waste reduction, which will create a range of benefits, including:

  • Return on Investment Food-waste reduction programs around the world have shown proven, significant ROI for all types of food businesses;

  • Data insights Aggregated, anonymous reporting from all signatories enables businesses to measure their progress, identify priority areas of action, and benchmark against competitors; and

  • Industry collaboration — Pre-competitive working groups open to all signatories offer opportunities for businesses to learn from each other’s successes; discuss solutions to challenges; and engage with government leaders through special policy roundtable discussions.

Beyond the US Food Waste Pact’s commitment to accelerating action, it also aims to provide the missing connection between other national and regional programs for businesses to reduce food loss and waste — including the Food Waste Reduction Alliance and the USDA and EPA’s US Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions initiative, as well as global efforts such as World Resources Institute (WRI)’s 10x20x30 initiative. The US Food Waste Pact will complement and support these existing efforts by providing direct support for businesses who have committed to take action. In addition to the PCFWC, the US Food Waste Pact has also been inspired by similar global initiatives managed by WRAP — including the Courtauld Commitment in the UK and Pacto Por La Comida in Mexico, which have demonstrated the benefits of businesses working together to achieve waste-elimination goals.

“As a partner of the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment, WRAP together with ReFED and WWF share an ambition to scale-up action addressing food loss and waste in the US, and contribute significantly to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3. WRAP is delighted to continue this strong association as an advisor for the US Food Waste Pact and contribute to the success of this initiative.” said David Rogers, International Director of WRAP. “Over the last 20 years, we have worked with partners from Mexico to Australia via South Africa and Indonesia to establish nation-specific programs tackling food loss and waste — from farm to fork. The US Food Waste Pact is a crucial addition to this international network, enabling national delivery in the US to complement that of other nations and delivery globally on a key environmental issue facing every nation on Earth.”

ReFED: $300M in ready-to-fund investments can transform failing food systems; deliver major climate, economic gains

Image credit: Kelly

Also on Monday, ReFED unveiled Reducing Food Loss and Waste – A Roadmap for Philanthropy — which provides governments, philanthropy and the private sector guidance on chopping emissions from food waste while improving food security, nutrition, incomes and the environment.

Just five geographies are responsible for more than half of global food waste and its resulting climate-changing emissions: China, the European Union, India, the United States, and Brazil. Food loss (on farms and in supply chains) and waste (at the retail and consumer levels) deprives farmers of income, costs consumers and producers money, and exacerbates biodiversity loss — all while 700 million people suffer from hunger worldwide. The Roadmap for Philanthropy highlights proven solutions ready to catalyze progress globally and showcases seven pivotal countries — Brazil, China, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, South Africa and the United States — that are poised to make the most progress on reducing food loss and waste.

Nearly 50 expert organizations contributed to this new roadmap, which was led by the Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU), ReFED, WRAP and WRI; and funded by the Bezos Earth Fund, the Betsy and Jesse Fink Family Foundation, the IKEA Foundation, and the Robertson Foundation.

"Food waste is a solvable problem, and philanthropic funding is critical to developing and scaling solutions,” Gunders said. “This new roadmap shows where funding can have the greatest impact in the immediate future and outlines a clear path to achieve measurable progress. It is an essential contribution to reaching our global food-waste reduction goals."

Bezos Earth Fund commits $57M to support global food-systems transformation

Image credit: Rita E

Last week in Dubai, as 134 countries signed a declaration to better integrate food into their climate goals, the Bezos Earth Fund announced the allocation of $57 million in food-related grants to tackle the dual threats of climate change and biodiversity loss — as part of its $1 billion commitment to tackling the food system's impact on climate and nature. It will allocate the remaining $850 million by 2030 to support ambitious implementation of the emerging global agenda on food systems and climate.

Food systems — the way we produce, process, package, ship, eat, and waste — contribute one third of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet they are underfunded and too often overlooked in climate discussions.

"We cannot afford for food to be on the sidelines of climate and nature conversations any longer. Food is a victim, problem and solution in the climate and nature crises; and we must raise its profile in the discussion," said Dr. Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund. "We applaud countries raising their ambitions, prioritizing food in their climate goals — and urge them to go bigger and bolder. We need to do things differently to feed a growing global population without degrading the planet and now is the moment for action."

The Bezos Earth Fund and 16+ other philanthropies also signed and announced a new philanthropic statement of action, committed to invest, advocate and partner to tackle food security and sustainability in alignment with the Paris Agreement goals.

The $57 million will support a range of innovations, including:

  • Making livestock more sustainable ($30M) — Together with the Global Methane Hub's newly launched Enteric Methane R+D Accelerator, the Earth Fund is investing in a range of innovations to reduce methane emissions from livestock by as much as 30 percent in the next 10-15 years. Additional grants provide funding to identify and develop low-methane feed, low-methane cattle breeding, and wearable sensors to measure cow methane emissions.
  • Protecting the Brazilian Amazon by limiting deforestation ($16.3M) — Grants are supporting groundbreaking plans from the Brazilian State of Pará to reach zero-illegal deforestation within the next three years by creating the world's largest cattle-traceability system. Together with The Nature Conservancy, IMAFLORA, Earth Innovation Institute, Aliança da Terra and other partners, the initiative aims to trace meat, dairy and leather to eliminate deforestation from value chains, and bring about forest-positive incentives for cattle farmers and ranchers.
  • Promoting climate-smart agricultural practices ($8.3M) — In partnership with the Earth Rover Program, the Bezos Earth Fund is building knowledge of soil ecosystems through seismology to assess the potential of soil to sequester significant amounts of carbon dioxide. With the Platform for Agriculture and Climate Transformation (PACT), the Earth Fund is helping ensure that US federal funding to reduce farmland methane emissions reaches farmers and ranchers that adopt climate-friendly agricultural practices.
  • Catalyzing food-systems transformation ($2.6M) — In partnership with FOLU, the Earth Fund is supporting efforts to tackle food loss and waste — establishing an alliance of countries working to transform food systems. Additionally, working with the think-and-do-tank Clim-Eat, we are identifying and nurturing bold technological innovations in food systems and convening key actors to accelerate their development and deployment.

"At COP28, it's time to turn pledges and commitments into action and funding for innovative food solutions and food systems transformation," said Dr. Andy Jarvis, Director of Future of Food at the Bezos Earth Fund. "Food isn't just having a moment in COP28 — it's the start of real momentum; and through the grants we are announcing, we will deliver that."