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The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste

Food waste has tremendous economic, social, and environmental consequences, but it is preventable. First-of-its-kind research on behalf of Champions 12.3 finds a robust business case for hotels to reduce this inefficiency

A review of 42 hotels across 15 countries found that nearly every site evaluated achieved a positive return, with the average hotel saving $7 for every $1 invested in reducing kitchen food waste.

Yolanda Kakabadse, Board Member of the World Wildlife Fund US, stated that reducing food waste within the hospitality sector provides a unique opportunity not only to influence an industry, but to raise awareness with travelers globally. Marcus Gover, Chief Executive of WRAP, called for a “momentum for change in all hotels,” noting the study had clearly demonstrated that with simple measures, hotels can save money, protect the environment and still satisfy the needs of their customers. ( Source: Hotel Study Makes Business Case for Achieving SDG 12.3 , IISD)

The report also found:

  • On average hotels achieved a 21 percent reduction of kitchen food waste in just one year by weight. Within that first year, over 70 percent had also recouped their investment. Within two years, 95 percent had recouped their investment.
  • Nearly 90 percent of sites were able to keep their total investment below $20,000, which was less than 1 percent of sales on average.

Data come from hotels spanning the budget, mid-range, casino resort, and luxury market segments of the hotel sector. The report details the kinds of investments companies made, and the ways in which they benefited financially.

Five Actions Stand Out for Achieving Successful Reduction Programs

  • Measure. Generating a “food waste inventory” enabled sites to identify how much and where food was wasted, so managers could prioritize hotspots and monitor progress over time.
  • Engage staff. Kitchen and service staff often want to help prevent food waste, but need more definition and guidance from leadership.
  • Rethink the buffet. Buffets are one of the largest sources of food waste in hotels. Relatively simple strategies, like cooking certain items à la carte near the end of mealtimes, were effective in reducing waste.
  • Reduce overproduction. Many sites had at least one menu item that was consistently under-consumed. By simply producing smaller quantities of these items, sites prevented waste without negatively impacting the customer experience.
  • Repurpose excess food. Having a “Plan B” for how to safely repurpose leftovers allowed kitchens to generate revenue from this potential waste. For example, unsold meats from breakfast may be a potential ingredient for a lunch or dinner dish.

Call to Action

Champions 12.3 encourages hotel owners and managers to “target, measure, and act” to realize the business case for themselves.

  • Target. Targets set ambition, and ambition motivates action. Hotels should adopt a voluntary reduction target of 50 percent by 2030, which is aligned with Target 12.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Measure. What gets measured gets managed. Hotels should start to measure their food loss and waste, and monitor progress toward achieving the target over time. The Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard ( can help entities proceed with measurement.
  • Act. Action is what ultimately matters. Hotels—working alone and together—should take measures to reduce food waste. A key success factor for action is management engagement.

The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste was made possible by support from Walmart Foundation and the Ministry of Economic Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. 

Champions 12.3 is a coalition of executives from governments, businesses, international organizations, research institutions, and civil society dedicated to inspiring ambition, mobilizing action, and accelerating progress towards achieving SDG Target 12.3.

Further reading from UNCCD Library

📚  food loss ;  📚  food waste ; 📚  Fact of the month: Word of the week ; 📚  food systems ; 📚   consumption ;  📚   health and nutrition ;

food loss