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8 objections to food waste measurement, and how to respond

By Leanpath  //  December 20, 2019

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In order to meet the UN goal of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030 we need to accelerate adoption of food waste measurement and behavior change around the world. That means understanding the fears and concerns of companies that have the largest potential impact and responding to them with expertise. The Food Loss & Waste Protocol released a conversational whitepaper identifying top objections to measuring food waste with recommendations on how to move the conversation forward. Here is a summary of the top objections to measuring food waste and strategies to overcome them - for a deeper read including case studies, check out the full FLW Protocol publication here.

1. Unclear about why to measure.

"I don’t understand why this is a priority."

"I don’t understand why you are prying into my work."

Given the many demands placed on people’s time, they need to understand why measuring food loss and waste is a priority for the business. Highlighting the positives of measuring makes it clear that the business wants this to happen, and provides tangible reasons for how the organization overall benefits, how they benefit in their role, and how they can connect more broadly to global and local societal issues. This response gives context to the importance of measurement. “Measuring food loss and waste gives us the data we need to understand how much food isn’t sold and why," the report explains. "It then enables us to identify hot spots, and the opportunities to take action so that we can put unsold food to better use.”

2. Not relevant to my business.

"Any food we don’t use in our business is donated, used for compost, fed to animals, plowed under, or used for a beneficial purpose. I don’t consider this to be 'waste.'”

It’s important to be clear that the goal is to measure the amount of any material that is not sold— whether called waste or other terms such as “diverted,” “recovered,” or “recycled.” This helps individuals focus on “source reduction” to avoid any food from leaving the human food supply chain in the first place. It also encourages more expansive thinking about alternatives to landfill where some value may be extracted from food (or inedible parts) no longer safe for human consumption.

3. We're already efficient.

"I value food and pride myself on already being as efficient as possible."

When individuals are invited to participate and share their knowledge and ideas on efficiency, they are more likely to see the valuable role they can play and also “buy in” to the rationale for measurement. Bring this person into the conversation by saying, “We’d like to be even more efficient and need your perspective on how we can keep improving.”

4. Not meaningful (we don't generate enough waste).

"The amount of food loss or waste I generate is too small to matter."

When individuals understand how their efforts contribute to something larger, they may be more motivated to see that their individual actions matter. Conveying the scale and relevance of food loss and waste in terms that are meaningful for the intended audience may provide a more relatable connection. Use this line to convey scale: “Even though the amount of loss or waste that you generate is small, when we add up all of it across our business units it represents a significant amount in total.”

5. No incentive.

"I’m not evaluated on the amount of waste, so have no incentive to measure it."

"I already have a lot of demands on my time and this is a hassle."

Waste prevention relies on frontline staff -- they are the global change makers in the fight against food waste. It is therefore important to not only provide tools that make the task easier, but also recognize and compensate employees through relevant key performance indicators (KPIs), rewards, celebration, increased pay, or other metrics that promote measurement. Plus, when food waste is tracked and prevented, it means less labor hours are needed stocking and prepping food will only be wasted. 

6. Fear of 'finger pointing.'

"Acknowledging there is food loss or waste implies I’m not doing my job well and/or could
be bad for our brand’s reputation."

"I’m going to be blamed or punished for any loss or waste we have."

Engaging actively with operators and foodservice workers who are concerned they’ll be blamed (e.g., workers whose roles may be temporary or otherwise tenuous) sends a message that their role and participation is valued. Make sure they know--per #5--that they will not be punished, but rewarded for tracking waste.

7. Out of my control.

"I don’t have any control over factors that cause food to be lost or wasted (e.g., the weather, poor quality, menu decisions)."

"I am simply meeting the consumer’s expectations (e.g., we can’t run out of food)."

It is helpful to communicate that measuring the amount and causes of food loss and waste provides data and insights that open up the opportunity for conversations with the internal and/or external stakeholders who influence how much food loss and waste is generated. 

8. Measurement feels daunting.

"I don’t feel confident in the quality of the data."

"We have no data for certain categories or parts of our business, and/or no visibility into our supply chain."

"I’m afraid we’ll find out how little we do know and the expectation will keep growing to dig deeper (i.e., I’ll never be done)."

Getting started can be the most difficult step. But once people have taken an initial step along the path to measuring, the next steps usually become easier. It’s important to recognize early progress and continue to provide the motivation, knowledge, and resources needed to track food loss and waste on an ongoing basis. It also is important to acknowledge and communicate that it’s okay if the accuracy of your data improves with time, or additional data becomes available and the total amount of food waste rises as a result. One can make adjustments to re-baseline the total tonnage from prior years.

 

The Food Loss & Waste Protocol (FLW Protocol) has developed the global Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard for quantifying food and/or associated inedible parts removed from the food supply chain—commonly referred to as “food loss and waste” (FLW). This standard is now being used to gather uniform data about food waste around the world. The content of this post is from the FLW Protocol Document "Overcoming Resistance to the Measurement of Food Loss and Waste" which was produced with critical review and recommendations from Leanpath staff.

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Topics: Kitchen Culture, Food Waste Strategies, Food Waste Policy