WRI Food’s Top Five
2017 was an exciting year for WRI’s Food Program. With a mission to provide analyses, partnerships, and strategies to secure a sustainable food future for all, here are five highlights from our work in the past year.
From Farm to Fork, Landmark Actions to Reduce Food Loss and Waste
WRI worked with two of the planet’s largest consortia of food companies to make historic commitments to reduce food losses among farmers and growers, and reduce food wasted in households around the world.
The Global Agri-business Alliance, a coalition of many of the world’s major food producers, publicly committed to reduce food losses by 50 percent by 2030. And The Consumer Goods Forum, a coalition including the world’s largest food processors and retailers, publicly committed to standardize and simplify food date labels by 2020, reducing consumer confusion and thereby reducing household food waste.
These commitments were made with the support of CEOs who are also members of Champions 12.3, a partnership (led by WRI and the Dutch government) of more than three dozen leaders dedicated to achieving Target 12.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which calls for halving food loss and waste by 2030.
Power Boost for Power Dishes
WRI’s Better Buying Lab – an innovation hub pioneering new ways of enabling consumers to choose sustainable foods when they shop or dine out – welcomed new members Unilever, Panera Bread, and Stanford Dining. Together, Better Buying Lab members are part of serving more than 60 billion meals each year.
In 2017, the Lab expanded its work to develop Power Dishes that are better for people and planet. Power Dishes are menu items characterized by their strong consumer awareness, ability to be adopted across many different dining formats and occasions, and widespread appeal. After extensive menu analysis, testing and refinement, the Lab is working with member companies and culinary institutions to further develop three dishes that have the potential to breakthrough on menus across the United States and United Kingdom.
The Language of Plant-based Food
In 2017, the Better Buying Lab kickstarted work to better understand how language impacts consumer ordering. Research has shown that terms like ‘vegetarian’ can be a real turn-off for diners; one study out of the London School of Economics, which the Better Buying Lab supported, found that diners are 56 percent less likely to order a sustainable, plant-based dish when it’s called out as vegetarian in a separate menu section.
The Better Buying Lab has partnered with Yale University and the UK’s Behavioral Insights Team to build on online testing of menus, and lead field tests in its partners’ restaurants and canteens with the aim of creating a lexicon that the food industry can use to describe plant-based foods and their benefits in a way that appeals to mainstream consumers.
The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste
WRI experts worked with colleagues at WRAP to research real-world financial costs and benefits from company and government initiatives to reduce food loss and waste. The resulting report, The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste, was released on behalf of Champions 12.3.
The findings were eye-opening. Half of the nearly 1,200 evaluated business sites in 17 countries achieved more than a 14:1 return on financial investment. Government efforts also pay off – the United Kingdom saw a 250-fold return on its investment in reducing food loss and waste from 2007 to 2012, and London showed a 92-fold return on its efforts to curb household food waste.
This first-of-its-kind data showed who pays and who benefits, a focus that speaks to hard-nosed business CFOs and government budget directors. Read more here.
A Food Summit for All
WRI teamed up with Food Tank and The George Washington University to host a day-long summit, Let's Build A Better Food Policy, which brought together policymakers, chefs, farmers, academics and others to debate and evaluate food issues from changing consumer tastes to the Farm Bill to food security. More than 350 people joined the summit in Washington, DC, and 1 million more joined online through Food Tank’s Facebook livestream. Rarely do conversations bring together such a diverse group and audience. WRI was honored to be a part of it.