Food waste accounting-measuring waste matters

Syed Md Enamul Kabir

One of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is to end hunger and ensure access by all people to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round by 2030. According to an estimate, a third of the world’s food is wasted when 821 million people are undernourished (https://www.un.org). Companies in food & beverage industry and in food retailing are responding to this challenge by focusing on reduction of food loss and waste in their value chains. For example, Tesco has targeted to halve food waste in their operations by 2030 (https://www.tescoplc.com). Reducing food waste not only can ensure food security for all but also can reduce economic loss for the companies pursuing the ‘reduced food waste’ targets. Hence, it makes perfect sense for companies to set food waste reduction targets for them.

The first right step towards ‘zero food waste’ is to account for food waste so that specific and measurable targets can be set and progress towards the targets can be measured. The Food Loss & Waste Protocol (FLW Protocol), a global multi-stakeholder partnership, has come forward to assist the companies interested in accounting for food waste by developing a standard for food waste accounting and reporting known as Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard (FLW Standard). Companies like Tesco, Nestle, Kellogg, IKEA use this standard to account for and report food waste. In this document, I will give a summary of the requirements of this standard so that companies in Bangladesh who are interested in accounting for food waste can speak in the same language as global companies are doing.

Developed in 2016, Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard provides guidance on identification, quantification and reporting of food loss and waste. The eight reporting and accounting requirements contained in FLW Standard are:

  1. FLW accounting and reporting shall be based on the principles of relevance, completeness, consistency, transparency, and accuracy;
  2. The physical amount of FLW shall be accounted for and reported as weight;
  3. FLW Standard requires definition and reporting of the scope of the FLW inventory. Scope includes timeframe over which waste is measured, types of foods included, types of destination to which food waste is directed to, and measurement boundary (types of food categories, lifecycle stage, geography and level of organization).
  4. FLW Standard suggests ten quantification methods and requires description of the quantification method (s) used in the reports.
  5. Sampling is permitted and if sampling and scaling of data are undertaken, FLW Standard requires description of the approach and calculation used, as well as the period of time over which sample data are collected (including starting and ending dates).
  6. A qualitative description and/or quantitative assessment of the uncertainty around FLW inventory results is required.
  7. If assurance of the FLW inventory is undertaken (which may include peer review, verification, validation, quality assurance, quality control, and audit), an assurance statement needs to be created.
  8. For setting an FLW reduction target and tracking the progress, a base year needs to be selected and scope of the target needs to be identified.

Food waste reduction has economic, social and environmental benefits and, hence, restaurants, modern groceries, food & beverage companies and even public offices like city corporations in Bangladesh should take waste reduction initiatives.  Setting food waste reduction targets, measuring progress towards the targets and communicating the process and outcome of the waste reduction initiatives in a single global language like FLW Standard will make the whole process more understandable and transparent.

Describing the details of this standard is outside the scope of this document. But, ESS & Partners can help your organization define, measure and report food waste according to this standard and can add credibility to your report to stakeholders by providing assurance on accuracy of FLW estimates and consistency with FLW Standard.

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