Another way to activate your ESG strategy: Stop wasting food!

Two Rivers Partners, Barbara Spitzer

Why I Joined the Board of Directors of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine

A well-used box truck backs into the loading dock of a community food pantry. Emblazoned across the panels of the truck is the familiar logo and tagline of a popular family restaurant. As any holiday fades, restaurant managers must deal with the glut of perishable food housed in overstuffed refrigerators and pantries. When lousy weather stifles New Year’s business, meaning much of the overstock will never make it to customers’ tables. The suitable course is to gather the expiring excess and toss it into the dumpster with the daily trash. After all, food waste accounts for more than half of consumer waste. The sustainable alternative? Partner with local pantries and nonprofits to distribute these staples to individuals and families facing food insecurity today.

Private-public partnerships are needed.

Food waste is front and center on many of our ESG agendas. If it is not, it must be… now. The USDA estimates that 30-40% of the US food supply is wasted annually, accounting for 133 billion pounds and 161 billion US dollars in losses. To curb waste, the USDA, EPA, and FDA entered a formal agreement in April 2019 with ReFED, a nonprofit focused on mitigating food waste and food insecurity, invigorating a shared commitment to “increase collaboration and coordination in areas of mutual interest relating to the reduction of food loss and waste.” The agreement calls on agencies and state governments to collaborate at the federal level to leverage the private and non-governmental sectors to become good partners in reducing waste.

Complexity, Complexity

Compounding the waste and food-insecurity challenges in our homes, businesses, and communities is the reality that contemporary food production processes strain the environment tremendously. As the global population grows and the impacts of climate change intensify, food producers continue to explore ways to meet increasing demand while mitigating environmental effects. Elizabeth Crawford of Food Navigator sees the emphasis on ESG growth flourishing among food producers and suppliers post-pandemic. Crawford also notes that transparency is critical to ESG growth in the food industry. Transparency about supply chains, food waste, and land and water usage “opens the door” to innovation, equity, and sustainable practice. Nestle, McCormick, PepsiCo, and others continue to draw significant praise for ESG initiatives.

Innovation and Initiative

At Accenture, we see innovation as a tangible gift we bring to the broader conversation about food waste, food insecurity, and the environmental impacts of food production. At our Chicago Innovation Hub, for example, the “Extract” brings together thinkers, designers, and capital to tackle some of the big questions surrounding the global food supply chain. Also a champion of innovation, the USDA hosts an annual Innovation Fair designed to showcase “some of the latest food loss and waste mitigation technologies, programs, and innovations developed by the USDA, academic institutions, local governments, and businesses.” Ultimately, however, innovation must be nurtured where the rubber meets the road. Homes, small businesses, restaurants, institutions, and larger organizations – like yours – must recognize that waste, food insecurity, and the environmental impacts of food production and distribution will only improve through collaborative efforts. This is where initiative joins the conversation.

A million box trucks backing into a million local pantries and nonprofits is a good step in reducing waste. That said, there are a million “micro-steps” we can take in our homes and offices to nurture sustainability across the food chain.

Top 10 things individuals can do:

1.    Thoughtfulness – Do your homework and support brands and products that are sustainably sourced.

2.    Garden – Supplement your shopping with gardened veggies and herbs. This will get you moving too.

3.    Invest and Label – Spend some money on decent storage containers for your foods, label contents, and date them too. Eat those leftovers!

4.    Keep the Fridge Clean – A clean fridge will better understand what’s on hand and what doesn’t need to be purchased.

5.    Creative Recipes – Stale bread, out-of-date milk, and other staples have a culinary shelf life that extends beyond what you thought was possible.

6.    Compost – This is an easy way to turn waste into a valuable cog in the food cycle.

7.    Slice and Dice – Cut the bruises and blemishes out of your fruits and veggies and use them anyway. Your produce guy does this already and charges you double.

8.    Farm to Fork – Take advantage of the local farmers’ market and the producers who shorten the mileage between production and the dinner table.

9.    Demand Transparency – Let the brands you support know you are serious about understanding their sources and supply chains.

10. Share What You Have – Too many staples in the pantry or leftovers on the table? Share what you have with a pantry, nonprofit, or neighbor.

 Top 3 things a business can do:

  1. Suppose you’re a food-based business such as consumer products, restaurants, stores, or bakeries. Find a local organization that would be thrilled to have you as a corporate food donor – imagine how many people a few pallets of food will feed.
  2. Suppose you’re in the event planning business. Could you make pre-arrangements with an organization that redistributes leftover food to pick up and deliver the food to those facing food insecurity?
  3. When catering frequent office meetings or parties, know that some pick-ups are not too small, especially in urban areas. Please get to know the players in your area and call them when you’ve got plenty of leftover food.

This is why I am thrilled to join the board of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, a national “boots on the ground” nonprofit with a big mission and a huge heart, rescuing a record 3 million pounds of food in 2022.

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