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5 Tips: How to Fund Upfront Investment in Food Waste Prevention

By Andrew Shakman, Co-Founder & CEO  ///  May 31, 2017


Food waste reduction starts with prevention—preventing the food waste from happening in the first place is the clear optimal solution from a social, environmental and economic standpoint. And the first step in prevention is measurement—understanding exactly how much food is being wasted and why, so you know where you’re starting from, can identify opportunities for improvement, and can easily track progress over time.

In the ReFED Report, A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste By 20 Percent, waste tracking and analytics is listed as one of the most effective solutions for food waste prevention by waste diversion potential. For foodservice institutions and restaurants, there is a very compelling reason to act, as we know that “what gets measured, gets managed.” And automated platforms, such as LeanPath, make it easy to track waste, collect detailed data and photos, and take action on your biggest opportunities for prevention.

Food waste prevention efforts have a proven and strong ROI—as much as 10x or more—over a relatively short period of 6-12 months. However, a common challenge many organizations face is how to fund the effort to start, since an upfront investment of time and resources is required to achieve the positive bottom-line impact.

Here we offer 5 tips to spark some creative thinking for your upfront program investment.

For organizations of all sizes:

1. Offset Costs With the Proven 14:1 Food Cost and Disposal Savings.
In this blog post we summarized the report released from Champions 12.3 earlier this year that found companies saved $14 for every $1 invested in reducing food waste. This is a powerful and proven ROI to support your business case. Share this report with your CFO and/or decision-making team. You can expect to earn back all you spend on capital and operating expenses within six to 12 months, and add dollars back to your bottom line every month thereafter, all while achieving additional social and environmental benefits.

2. If Capital Investment Funds Are Not Available to Support Upfront Technology Costs, Consider an Alternate Approach, Like a Rental Program
Work with vendors to create a rental or leasing program that spreads the costs over time, so you don’t need to make a large upfront investment to start a food waste tracking and analytics program. At LeanPath we offer rental programs on equipment that roll into your monthly subscription, making it more affordable to start. Explore all your options.
3. Seek Municipal Technical Support Grants

While not available in every area, more of these programs are emerging across the U.S., and both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations alike can take advantage of them in most cases. LeanPath has partnered with Stop Waste of Alameda County, California, Oregon Metro and the NRDC Nashville Food Waste Initiative, among others, to help bring more food waste prevention technology to those communities. Research what’s available in your area.

For colleges and universities, and other non-profit organizations:

4. Explore Green Revolving Fund (GRF) Opportunities

Within colleges and universities, there are often times Green Revolving Funds (GRF) programs in place—which are mechanisms to capture savings from one sustainability project to invest in another, creating a renewable financing vehicle. If your organization has a GRF, you might be able to use it to invest in food waste prevention efforts. Check with your sustainability leaders to see if this exists.

For large corporations that are working to drive adoption of food waste prevention across many units:

5. Consider Creating a Renewable Funding Source to Alleviate Upfront Unit Costs

For large corporations, consider thinking outside of the existing funding box. If you are part of a corporate team working to drive adoption across your operating units, you may need to offer some initial financial support to make it easy and fast for units to start these important programs. Create a fund that supports the initial program investment, that is paid back over time once the units start to realize food cost savings. And to ensure unit-level commitment and buy-in, the incremental savings over the initial investment would go back to the unit, motivating them to manage the program well.

Food waste prevention is the only strategy on the food waste reduction hierarchy that results in significant savings to the bottom line, driven largely by food cost reductions. LeanPath customers have achieved 8% and higher food costs savings over time, with additional savings on labor, energy, water, and waste disposal savings. No other strategy will deliver this type of payback. Good news: this is totally doable. You can prevent food waste—and once you’ve made a commitment, you can try the creative ideas above to finance the program and get started right away.

If you’re considering investment in a food waste prevention program, we would be delighted to discuss this with you further to help think through the best options for your organization. Reach out to us here.


Topics: Food Waste Musings, Food Waste Prevention Newsletter, commercial kitchen