Food Waste and Triple Bottom Line

In September 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) published a research report, Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..  This report is the first study to analyze the impacts of global food waste from an environmental perspective, looking specifically at its consequences for the climate, water and land use, and biodiversity.

This report estimated that about 33% of the world’s food production was wasted!!! The estimation of percentage of food waste was raised to 40% in later studies.  It meant some 1.3 billion tons of food each year is wasted which causes economic losses of $750 billion and significant damage to the environment.

One of the key findings of the report is that food that is produced but not eaten each year consumed up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River and is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tones of greenhouse gases to the planet’s atmosphere. Similarly, 1.4 billion hectares of land – 28 per cent of the world’s agricultural area – is used annually to produce food that is lost or wasted.


Figure 1: Agricultural Production Volumes vs. Food Wastage Volumes

Are you surprised by these statistics?  Was it real that 40% of the food produced was wasted globally?  Let’s take vegetables as an example. A vegetable has to pass through a lifecycle of planting, harvest, postharvest handling and storage, processing, distribution (supermarket), preparation, consumption, and end of life.  However, not all food, especially vegetables and fruits have a shining and freshly look like those in the supermarkets. What is the life of those not-so-good looking vegetables and fruits?  Where did they go?

food lifecycle.jpg

Figure 2 Food Lifecycle

Watch the following videos.

Today I learned: We waste one-third of food worldwide. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

How one Las Vegas hotel is trying to reduce food waste (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Food Rescue: A food waste and hunger solution (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Food-Waste Rebel Wants You to Eat Ugly Food, National Geographic (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

The Triple Bottom Line (TBL)

In Chapter Two, we learned a concept called the triple bottom line (TBL, p. 137). TBL also refers to an accounting framework for business’ social responsibility seeking  balance among  social impact, environmental impact (or ecological) and financial performance. These three divisions are also called the three Ps: people, planet and profit, or the “three pillars of sustainability” In another word, business should seek long term sustainability among financial performance (profit), social responsibility (people), and environment protection.

Some of you have restaurant work experience. Did customer finish their plates? How much food was wasted?  In last discussion board, we discussed the tactics restaurants use to get their customers order more and pay more.  Do those tactics conflict with TBL and contribute to food waste problem?

Discussion questions

When this UN report was first published in 2013, the world was shocked by the amount of food wasted. A lot of studies were conducted to seek solutions for the food waste problem.  The United Nations has included seeking food security and reducing food waste in UN’s 17 Goals for the Global Sustainable Development by 2030.

For this week’s discussion board, please discuss

What is your observation of food waste?
Can restaurants adopt the TBL to reduce food waste and also be profitable?
Is there any best practices that restaurants are implementing to reduce food waste?
What can we as an individual do to solve (or reduce) the food waste problem?

Reference: Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nation. Food Wastage Footprint, Impacts on Natural Resources, Summary Report.  URL: (Links to an external site.)


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