Power Lunch / Environmental

Businesses Can Save Money and the Environment by Reducing Food Waste

The trinational Commission for Environmental Cooperation creates a guide specifically for North America.

By César Rafael Chávez of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation

There are enormous environmental, social and economic costs associated with the loss and waste of food, including significant greenhouse gas emissions. The first step in addressing the issue of food waste is finding a way to measure, to quantify, it.

To successfully reduce and prevent food loss and waste, an organization must first measure how much food is being lost or wasted. Measurement identifies the scale of the problem and the hotspots that need to be addressed. It also allows for tracking progress over time. In short, what gets measured gets managed.

That's why the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) has released a practical guide and a technical report to measure food loss and waste across the food supply chain in Canada, Mexico and the United-States.

Why and How to Measure Food Loss and Waste: A Practical Guide is an easy-to-use tool for businesses to apply to measure the quantity of food wasted in its process activities. This tool has the power to alter an organization’s practices, reducing operational costs while also helping to reduce the environmental impacts of our food production system.

This practical guide walks readers through the steps for measuring food loss and waste within a home, institution, business, city, state or country. Treat it as a quick reference for assistance and look for internal links that allow you to quickly reach the material of most interest.

The practical guide provides a step-by-step plan for how companies and governments can begin the process of measuring food loss and waste. It addresses key topics such as:

  • Why to measure food loss and waste.
  • How to establish a business case for food loss and waste measurement.
  • Addressing common barriers and obstacles.
  • Tracking causes of food loss and waste.
  • Converting measurements to other financial, environmental and social impacts.
  • How to select a measurement method.

The CEC was created by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and is a trinational organization that addresses environmental issues that cross North American borders.

Some facts from CEC’s Food Loss & Waste Research:

  • In North America, approximately 168 million tons of food loss and waste are generated annually.
  • Food loss & waste equates to 13 million tons in Canada, 28 million tons in Mexico and 126 million tons in the U.S.
  • Food loss and waste amounts to economic losses of US$278 billion per year.
  • Food waste in North America generates approximately 193 million tons of GHGs.

The CEC is calling on food processors, producers, retailers, restaurant operators, foodservice providers, business associations and stakeholders across North America to start measuring food waste today, as well as to take steps to minimize it.

The practical guide provides easy-to-use measurement guidelines for every segment of the food value chain, from primary production to manufacturing to the foodservice industry.

The technical report, Quantifying Food Loss and Waste and Its Impacts, released alongside the guide, provides methods to quantify food loss and waste and food surplus across the supply chain, as well as tools to estimate the environmental, financial and social impacts of food loss and waste.

The practical guide and the technical report are the results of a close collaboration with key stakeholders from the three countries, including the private sector and several experts.

The CEC also is releasing two food waste measurement case studies, on Beau’s Brewing Co. in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, and on Toks Restaurants in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Both organizations have a longstanding commitment to sustainability, and they both used the CEC tools in the practical guide to maximize their business potential while helping the environment and communities.

“We really see the social and environmental value and cost-saving potential of food waste prevention and reduction," said Gustavo Pérez Berlanga, Toks Restaurant Group’s senior vice president for social responsibility. "We’re keen to share this with the restaurant industry in Mexico because of the positive impact it has on communities and the environment.”