Food Waste: Challenges and Opportunities In Sustainable Operations
It is estimated that about 14% of the food produced in the world is lost before it reaches retail outlets (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [FAO], 2019), while an additional 17% of the food available for consumers is wasted (UNEP, 2021). Reducing and preventing food waste is important because negative externalities occur throughout the entire lifecycle of food and have an adverse impact on society. There are at least three major impacts: economic, environmental and social. Economically, resources used in production are wasted, such as land, water, labor, energy, etc. and profitability. Environmentally, it leads to unnecessary CO2 emissions and air pollution, caused mainly by food being discarded on landfill sites, or being incinerated, and arable land and the machinery involved in producing and transporting food are occupied in vain. From a social and ethical standpoint, food loss and waste jeopardize opportunities for combatting food insecurity, with access to food reducing because of decreased availability, which drives up prices (Cicatiello, Franco, Pancino, & Blasi, 2016; FAO, 2013; Gustavsson, Cederberg, Sonesson, Otterdijk, & Meybeck, 2011; Kummu et al., 2012; Lundqvist, Fraiture, & Molden, 2008). Reducing food waste, therefore, can save economic resources, reduce costs, improve food security, minimize negative social and environmental impacts, and help answer the growing pressure that businesses are facing to become more sustainable (Thyberg & Tonjes, 2016), all of which help create a sustainable food system (Lipinski et al., 2013). Reducing and preventing food waste also meets the Agenda 2030 goals, since target 12.3 aims to halve food loss and waste in supply chains by 2030 (UN General Assembly, 2015). Due to the complex nature of food supply, however, it is a big challenge for researchers and practitioners alike (Raak, Symmank, Zahn, Aschemann-Witzel, & Rohm, 2017).
Food waste solutions, therefore, are the new frontier in the search for sustainability in operations management. Achieving target 12.3 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to halve food waste requires multidisciplinary efforts from all the stakeholders in food systems.
Covid-19 has increased the urgency to fight food waste, especially in terms of redistributing food to those vulnerable people who are affected by pandemics, and multiple efforts are being made by public, private and the third sectors to tackle food insecurity and hunger. The net effect of the pandemic on food waste will depend on how long it lasts, and on the impact it has on the global economy, on agri-food supply chains, and on households, as well as on the measures that are being taken by local authorities, and regional, national and global pandemic management (Burlea-Schiopoiu et al., 2021). We believe that this Special Forum, which was created before Covid-19 changed our lives, is an important reading and learning opportunity for all of us, as consumers, citizens and researchers.
Publication titleRevista de Administração de Empresas
- Published version
Item sub-typeJournal Article
- School of Management Outputs