Securing a home run on tackling food loss and waste: the power of collaboration

20 June 2024

ReFED 2024 Food Waste Solutions Summit was held in Baltimore, the birthplace of George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth who transcended baseball to icon status. He was an impactful big hitter, an innovator, a connector for fans of the game and a true collaborator – “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime”.

The man himself George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth

In some down time, I managed to visit his birthplace which has been made into a fantastic museum. Fans and tourists flock to take in his impressive baseball statistics, see the mementos of his successes and to develop an understanding of the man himself. This strikes a chord with the ReFED Summit, 3 days with over 700 delegates from across the world discussing and sharing solutions that have the potential to knock food loss and waste out of the park. It is desperately needed, the recent UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2024 co-authored by WRAP highlighted that in 2022, the world wasted 1.05 billion tonnes of food. This amounts to one fifth (19%) of food available to consumers being wasted, at the retail, food service, and household level.

At the Summit, I had the privilege of being part of an international showcase representing the Courtauld Commitment, a UK public private partnership that has contributed to a 27% national reduction in edible food waste post farm gate between 2007 and 2018. It is also transcending food loss and waste with national 2030 targets to reduce absolute GHG emissions associated with food and drink consumption by 50%, plus 50% of fresh food and drink is being sourced from areas with sustainable water management. The UNEP Food Waste Index 2024 report has a detailed chapter on food loss and waste public partnerships as part of a solution focus.

ReFED 2024 Food Waste Solutions Summit International Showcase speakers

The Courtauld Commitment, its progress and international recognition gives me a huge sense of personal satisfaction. I worked on the development and delivery of the public private partnership across a number of incarnations. As Senior International Partnerships Manager at WRAP, I get to draw on my past experiences and now have the good fortune and opportunity to help develop public private partnerships across the world, in pursuit of scalable impact. Today, there are public private partnerships in six continents of the world – all aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 Target of halving food loss and waste by 2030 - operating at the top of the food waste hierarchy and adopting the reduction principles of Target, Measure, Act.  This universal approach means targets create ambition, ambition motivates action, and action leads to impact. In short - what is measured is managed.  

Map of food loss and waste public private partnerships around the world to date

Individually, the food loss and waste public private partnerships are making progress in the fight against food waste. For example, the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment (PCFWC) recently published it’s 2023 Annual Report. This showed that since the first year of data collection in 2019 to 2022 unsold food rates in retail fell by 28%. This equates to a 30% decrease in the carbon footprint of unsold food in the region, the equivalent of 270,000 passenger vehicles taken off the road each year. PCFWC also has a suite of case studies demonstrating inspiring food loss and reduction activities across the value chain.

Behind each food loss and waste public private partnership are organisations providing the environment for collaborative action, technical assistance and stakeholder engagement. With a common interest and goal to share experiences and best practice, the concept of an international network of food loss and waste has long been an inspiration. Earlier this year, WRAP was awarded  catalytic funding from the Ballmer Group to scale impact through public private partnerships. This includes support to turn the concept of a network into reality. By connecting and sharing best practice across practitioners, the overall operating standards of public private partnerships will increase, participating stakeholders will receive additional value and a collective voice will be created.

On the last day of the ReFED Summit, I had the privilege to chair an international (food waste free) breakfast with representatives from across six food loss and waste public private partnerships. The purpose of the session was to determine the network approach and agree priorities and activities. A highly collaborative discussion was complemented by each country showcasing their latest developments. We could have continued through to lunch and even dinner with the energy in the room! 

Representatives from food loss and waste public private partnerships around the world and the formation of an international network

The international network of food loss and waste public partnerships resonates with Babe’s team philosophy of individual stars working together for the greatest result. We can take inspiration from The Plastics Pact Network, convened by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and WRAP, connecting national and regional initiatives around the world to implement solutions towards a circular economy for plastic. This includes striving for collective scaling of impact and reporting of progress akin to the recent Plastic Pacts – Scaling Impact publication.

Together, we learn and apply. Together, we are stronger. Together, we can make a difference.