- A coalition of nearly 200 major food suppliers, manufacturers and retailers — including Ahold Delhaize, Walmart, Kroger, Mondelez, Nestlé, and PepsiCo — committed to the 10x20x30 initiative, with the goal cutting their food waste in half by 2030.
- While General Mills signed up for this initiative, the company separately announced it will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% and food waste by 50% during the next 10 years. To do so, the CPG firm will start using regenerative agriculture practices on 1 million acres of farmland. The company says up to a third of greenhouse gases stem from the food system, and an estimated 80% of those emissions come from agriculture.
- As more consumers are concerned about the environment, sustainability pledges are no longer optional for food and beverage companies. Reducing amount of food wasted is a critical component in this effort. According to the Washington Post, if food waste were an independent nation, it would make the third largest contribution to global warming, behind the U.S. and China.
This new partnership is a voluntary coalition. Companies will produce annual reports on their food waste, which they are encouraged to share publicly on the Food Waste Atlas website, The Washington Post reported.
However, this pledge is not enforceable. Even if the companies comply, they will only make a small dent in the overall problem. According to a report by the nonprofit ReFED, the 80% of food waste is attributable to consumers, grocery stores and restaurants. Manufacturers are only responsible for 2% of the total volume of food waste. Consumers account for 43%.
Still, a commitment from some of the world’s largest food manufacturers and retailers is not to be overlooked. Worldwide, food that is unharvested or disposed of at some point in the supply chain amounts to 30% of all food produced, according to data from the United Nations. This amounts to $940 billion in economic losses annually.
Reducing overall food waste can help with companies’ bottom lines. One way manufacturers have approached the solution is through upcycling, which can be a lucrative opportunity for CPGs to repurpose their waste into packaging and food. A Future Market Insights study found food waste is a growing business worth $46.7 billion in 2019 with an expected annual growth rate of 5% for the next 10 years. Upcycling appeals to the growing consumer base that considers sustainability in their purchases.
Upcycling can only address part of the concern. Other solutions include Whole Foods’ approach, in which staff donates uneaten food from stores to food banks. Trader Joe’s takes similar actions. Other retailers sell "ugly" produce to consumers at a discount.
Others are looking further up the supply chain. General Mills' production facilities now operate under "zero-waste-to-landfill" criteria, meaning nothing is sent to the landfill and the heat from items that are incinerated is used for other manufacturing processes.
This most recent pledge comes from an agglomeration of companies which, for the most part, have already committed to reducing food waste. Kroger announced in 2017 it was striving to eliminate food waste across the company by 2025. Cargill and Renmatix began exploring approaches for upcycling plant materials into functional food ingredients in 2019. And CEOs at 14 of the biggest retailers and manufacturers joined The Consumer Goods Forum to create the Coalition of Action on Food Waste. Members of this group will report their food loss data by 2021 and engage with their suppliers to address food waste at the post-harvest stage, at which 30% of it is created. Many of the members of this group are also participating in the “10x20x30” initiative.
With so many simultaneous efforts dedicated to reducing food waste, it is likely there will be some progress. After making its first sustainability commitment, General Mills’ annual emissions declined 1.3% from 2018 to 2019, according to Bloomberg Green.
At the same time, without a consistent measuring stick against which to measure companies' progress, it will be difficult to benchmark change across the industry. Nevertheless, the willingness to join in these efforts shows companies are taking consumers’ demands for more sustainability seriously.