With so much focus on curbing greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions in the energy, utilities and metals-and-mining sectors, one might be forgiven for forgetting about the emissions linked to bringing food to your plate. This needs to change since the agricultural sector is the largest source of GHG emissions after energy use in industry.
Understanding the economic and financial materiality of the agricultural sector was helped in 2019 by the UN establishing the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, taking place every year on September 29th. Our chart shows analysis from Project Drawdown that reducing food waste could be one of the most effective actions for reducing and removing emissions.
About time this topic got the recognition it deserved since 40% of the food grown around the world is either lost or wasted, even while 2.37 billion people did not have access to adequate food last year.
Top individual actions for reducing and removing carbon emissions
* Assuming a 1.5°C increase in the average global temperature
Sources: Project Drawdown 2021, DWS Investment GmbH as of 9/21/21
Food loss refers to losses that take place at the production, post-harvest and processing stages and are most prevalent in Central and Southern Asia due to things such as poor refrigeration or hungry rodents. In India, for example, post-harvest losses account for about 10% of total food grains produced due to such things as rodents which either consume or contaminate. However, helping reduce food loss is an investment opportunity. For instance, thematic funds could make loans to help improve crop storage and market knowledge of food loss.
Food waste, on the other hand, relates to retailers' and consumers' behavior such as preparing food that is not eaten or throwing away food past its sell-by date. The consumer-goods industry has embraced the goal of reducing food waste. Ten of the largest companies set a goal to work with their 20 largest suppliers to cut food waste by 50% by 2030 – the 10x20x30 initiative.
This can be profitable: analysis across 700 companies found that every U.S. dollar invested in reducing food waste from actions like staff training, changing food storage and handling processes and changing packaging returned 14 U.S. dollars. Many restaurants and hotel kitchens are even using Artificial Intelligence to cut waste, saving money and delivering a strong return. This subject surely offers enough angles to attract various parties. The earlier the better in our view.