Annual food loss and waste are expected to grow “explosively” between now and 2030, according to a model developed by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). However, it says “aggressive” action by companies, agricultural players, governments, and others can change that trajectory.
The scope of the problem and the opportunity to address it are outlined in a new study, “Tackling the 1.6-Billion-Ton Food Loss and Waste Crisis,” published this week by BCG, a global management consulting firm and advisor on business strategy.
The study provides projections to 2030, when food loss and waste are expected to hit 2.1bn tonnes, worth $1.5tr – from the current 1.bn tonnes.
It outlines five key drivers of the problem: lack of awareness of the issue among consumers and others, inadequate supply chain infrastructure, supply chain inefficiency, a lack of collaboration among groups across the food value chain, and poorly designed tax and regulatory policies. For each driver, BCG estimated the opportunity to reduce waste and loss, with the total reaching nearly $700bn annually.
“This represents a challenge so massive that it was included in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. But while it is a daunting problem, there are steps that can be taken today, actions that draw on currently available technology and know-how, to dramatically slash food loss and waste across the value chain.”
The study also looks at actions companies can take to help combat the problem. Such actions provide a way for companies to address a major societal challenge and deliver business value, an area of increasing focus for BCG.
“Roughly one-third of the food produced around the world goes to waste,” says Esben Hegnsholt, a BCG partner and co-author of the publication. “This represents a challenge so massive that it was included in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. But while it is a daunting problem, there are steps that can be taken today, actions that draw on currently available technology and know-how, to dramatically slash food loss and waste across the value chain.”
The report identifies 13 concrete initiatives companies can take to address the problem. These include:
Educating farmers, consumers, and company employees on the issue of food loss and waste and steps they can take to reduce it.
- Improving supply chain infrastructure for the food industry, including investment in cold chain systems.
- Adopting digital, big data, and other tools to slash loss and waste and developing company KPIs and processes to drive reductions.
- Improving collaboration across the food value chain, including between agricultural producers and food processors.
- Advocating for changes to regulations and tax policies that would reduce loss and waste and encourage the repurposing and recycling of food.
The study explains how companies that take action stand to reap tangible business benefits, including lower costs, the opening of new markets and new revenue opportunities, an elevated brand, and an enhanced ability to attract and retain talent.
“While many stakeholders have a part to play in combating food loss and waste, the role of companies is perhaps the most critical,” says Shalini Unnikrishnan, a BCG partner and co-author of the publication.
“Companies are involved in every aspect of the food supply chain, from production through to consumption, and as a result, their decisions and actions have an outsized impact. At the same time, they have deep expertise, insight on potential solutions, and the money to make those solutions happen—which can ultimately help their bottom lines.”