Researchers explain how TCA could help reduce food loss and waste
In a new report for UKRI’s Global Food Security (GFS) programme, early career researchers have explained how true cost accounting (TCA) could help reduce loss and waste across the food system .
Early career researchers from across UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) disciplines have worked together to establish evidence-based policy recommendations to reduce the amount of waste in our food system.
They also aim to tackle the ten percent of global greenhouse gas emissions resulting from food loss and waste.
The recommendations are part of a larger report titled: A tool in the toolbox: Can true cost accounting break down siled thinking about food loss and waste?
It was developed following a series of focus groups with stakeholders from across the food system, including:
- food producers
- policy makers
- civil society organizations (CSOs)
Findings and evidence-based policy recommendations were then presented to GFS program government partners. They were also featured in the Green Zone at the UN climate change conference COP26 last November.
True cost accounting
The report examines whether the True Cost Accounting (TCA) tool could be used to reduce the volume of loss and waste that occurs at every stage of the food system.
Producing, consuming and wasting food has significant impacts that cost our society dearly; costs that are not normally factored into the price of the food we buy.
Justine Pearce, one of the authors of the report, explains: “We pay for this damage in a hidden way. Currently, for every £1 paid directly for food, we incur an additional £1 cost from hidden external costs. »
The authors identify ACT as a way to minimize the mismatch between those who create societal costs and those who pay them.
We believe that more work is needed to create a database linking relevant schemes and measurements, potentially providing an efficient, holistic and simple labeling system for consumers.
The TCA can also be used as a tool to signal consumers about the social and environmental footprints of different food products. Therefore, empower them to make personal choices to minimize food loss and waste.
Miranda Burke, author of the report, says: “We believe more work is needed to create a database linking relevant schemes and measurements, potentially providing an effective, holistic and simple labeling system for consumers.”
Other recommendations identified in the report include mandatory reporting of food lost and wasted by different stakeholders, with binding targets to reduce volumes on an annual basis.
Because, as the report’s author, Mehroosh Tak points out, “what gets measured gets managed”.
- ensure supplier-retailer contracts address food loss and waste (FLW) at all points in the supply chain and require stakeholders to measure, report and reduce FLW in their contracts
- hospitality, supermarkets and local authorities should be required to disclose all FLW and set mandatory annual targets to reduce FLW
- review current rules and regulations regarding the use and processing of FLWs, and consider options for reusing FLWs, for example, as animal feed
- address supply chain inefficiencies: supporting government procurement directly from suppliers could reduce FLW, while simultaneously strengthening local economies
- incentivize suppliers, retailers and hospitality to address the social, economic and environmental externalities of the food system, potentially offering incentives and rewards to do so through lower trade tariffs
- clear definitions of terminology including: food loss, food waste, surplus, inedible parts and food loss and waste destinations. Development of a government-recognized language for system-wide standardization of data logging.