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A significant share of food grown is not ultimately eaten. The FAO estimates that 32 percent of all food produced in the world by weight is lost or wasted.1 In this context, “food loss and waste” refers to the edible parts of plants and animals that are produced or harvested for human consumption but that are not ultimately eaten by people. When converted into calories, global food loss and waste amount to approximately 24 percent of all food produced (Lipinski et al. 2013)2

Addressing this massive inefficiency can have a significant impact on people and the planet. It can improve the food security of people and countries, raise farmer incomes, reduce costs to companies in the food value chain and end consumers, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as demands on water and energy.

The Food Loss and Waste Protocol seeks to address current challenges in gathering data and consistently measuring food loss and waste. The FLW Protocol design will reflect these distinctions and meet multiple purposes. It will provide written guidance on various aspects of measuring food loss and food waste including, but are not limited to:

  • Definitions of food loss and waste (e.g., across different parts of the food value chain, by destination, and by type of material)
  • Boundaries or “scopes” for what to measure
  • Unit(s) of measure
  • Data collection, quantification and extrapolation methods
  • Types of data sources
  • Evaluating tradeoffs between accuracy, completeness, relevance, and cost
  • Setting targets
  • Reporting results

The FLW Protocol will take the form of a publication; somewhat akin to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (see the Revised Corporate Standard at The publication may be complemented by an online component that points to tools and other forms of assistance for entities that want to conduct a food loss and waste audit in accordance with the FLW Protocol.


The FLW Protocol is designed to generate a number of benefits to countries, companies and other organizations. Most importantly, it will guide users on how to measure food loss and waste, providing:

  • Confidence that the methods used are robust, credible, and globally accepted
  • Consistency and comparability
  • Alignment to prevent “reinvention of the wheel”
  • Accelerated transfer of best measurement practices

In turn, measuring food loss and waste in accordance with the FLW Protocol will enable users to answer questions such as: * How much food is being lost and/or wasted? * Where is the loss and/or waste happening?

Guiding principles

The process of developing the FLW Protocol will adhere to several guiding principles. It will:

  • Use a multi-stakeholder process
  • Build on existing initiatives
  • Keep the scope broad
  • Meet user needs
  • Avoid letting the perfect become the enemy of the good
  • Be amenable to differences

In light of these guiding principles, the following hypotheses will guide development of the FLW Protocol:

  • Series of versions. The FLW Protocol will evolve over time reflecting advances in methods, data, and user needs.
  • Tiered methods. In order to be amenable to differences between regions regarding current data availability and measurement capacity, the FLW Protocol may propose “tiers” of recommended methods and data sources for quantifying food loss and waste.
  • Modular coverage. Guidance will be provided in a modular manner so that a user can select the suite of elements most relevant to its specific objectives, such as the different destinations of food that’s not eaten.

1. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). 2011. Global food losses and food waste – extent, causes and prevention. Rome: UN FAO.

2. Lipinski, B. et al. 2013. “Reducing Food Loss and Waste.” Working Paper, Installment 2 of Creating a Sustainable Food Future. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute.

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