Home People & Planet Preventing food waste is good for the planet and profitable

Preventing food waste is good for the planet and profitable

We speak with a sustainability expert about the role of technology in reducing food wastage and why organisations addressing the issue are also profitable
An interview with
APAC Sustainability Lead, Capgemini

The recently released Capgemini Research Institute report, Reflect, Rethink, Reconsider: Why food waste is everybody’s problem, unearths the issue of food waste. In this second part of the interview, we speak with Barbara-Anne Bensted, APAC Sustainability Lead at Capgemini, about how companies can reduce food wastage using technology and why companies that invest in measures to reduce food waste also have a greater return on their investments.

Unravel: How can food waste be tackled in-store, as well as in consumers’ homes? What role do food organisations play in minimising wastage?

Barbara-Anne Bensted: In-store, organisations can incentivise and engage employees to reduce food waste. In our survey, only 56% of food retailers claim they incentivise proactive employee behaviour on reducing food waste.

In Singapore, only 47% of organisations claim to have regular food waste prevention debriefs with employees and staff.

Retailers can look also at upcycled foods. For instance, a leading retailer is reducing bread waste by turning unsold baguettes and batons from its in-store bakeries into a range of olive crostini and bread puddings.

Technology solutions can play a huge role here. Today, plant-based protection coating solutions are available to extend shelf life of fresh produce. Some companies are already partnering with zero-waste apps to either donate surplus food or sell them at reduced prices. Solutions such as demand forecasting, inventory management, dynamic pricing, and automatic order fulfilment can help retailers reduce waste. Technology can also be used to assess and track waste in stores.

At consumer’s homes, adaptable recipes with leftovers, more information on how to correctly store food, understanding on date labels, composting, recalibration of refrigerator temperature, and in general looking at what they have in fridge and pantry before buying can help consumers address waste.

Unravel: What are the hurdles to implementing processes to contain food waste?

Ms Bensted: Below are the top challenges mentioned by organisations in our research:

Unravel: Please tell us about the role technology can play, as well as other practices to prevent, reclaim and manage food waste.

Ms Bensted: Technology can form the basis of collaboration, monitoring, and employee or consumer awareness. Technology can play a central role across the critical areas of collaboration, monitoring and engagement. From educating consumers to implementing solutions that can have impact across the supply chain or governing waste management initiatives.

For instance, solutions such as demand forecasting, GIS and remote sensing can help in sourcing. Within transportation and storage, technologies such as IoT, temperature monitoring solutions, cold chain, intelligent routing can be crucial. For operations, technologies that perform inventory management, markdown alerts, imaging solutions can be helpful. Smart, active and intelligent packaging can help augment a product’s shelf life and preserve freshness. And finally, technology can be used to create surplus food marketplaces and prevent food waste during trade promotions. With the right technology solutions organisations have been able to create broad impact from farm to fork.

Data plays a huge role – so organisations need to enable transparency and strengthen collaboration and data exchange with value-chain partners.

Unravel: Do companies that invest in measures to reduce food waste also have greater return on their investments? Please explain if yes.

Ms Bensted: There is a strong connection between food waste-related initiatives and business benefits. A 2017 study of 700 food-manufacturing, retail, and service companies found that half those organisations that invested in measures to reduce food waste saw a 14-fold return on their investments.

In our research, we found that reducing food waste helps organisations save costs, increase their revenues and profitability. Today, on average, the cost associated with food waste is around 5.6% of total sales.

Looking at upcycled products also helps organisations to generate new revenue streams and venture into new business models. A recent report found that the market for products developed from food waste was already worth more than $52.9 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.6% to reach $83.3 billion by 2032.

Unravel: What are other benefits—beyond financial—that organisations can reap by addressing food waste?

Ms Bensted: First is achieving environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals. Food waste is responsible for roughly 8% of global emissions. For 90% of food-waste management programmes, the top objective is the “commitment to climate action and conservation of natural resources.” Food waste reduction can help organisations meet mandatory and/or voluntary environmental commitments, such as zero-waste-to-landfill, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and the UN SDGs. More than one-third (35%) of organisations suggest that food waste initiatives have already boosted their ESG ratings.

Second is increased consumer confidence. Globally, a large majority (91%) of consumers would prefer to purchase food from organisations that are taking steps to reduce waste. Moreover, 58% of these consumers say that, in the past year, they have increased spending with companies that focus on reducing waste – in 27% of cases, significantly.

The first part of this interview explores how food wastage can be curtailed and how both producers and consumers can tackle this problem. It can be read here.

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Barbara-Anne Bensted
APAC Sustainability Lead, Capgemini

Barbara-Anne Bensted leads Capgemini’s Sustainability practice across Asia-Pacific. Barbara-Anne is an industry recognised technology Influencer with more than 20 years’ experience leading digital transformation programmes across energy, mining and government organisations in Australia, US, Southern Africa, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Barbara-Anne is passionate about the role technology can play in advancing sustainable practices in the public and private sectors.

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