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An Industry-Led Approach to Addressing Food Waste in Canada

The magnitude of the food waste problem presents significant opportunities for business.

Mapping Food Waste in Canada

Twenty-seven billion dollars worth of food produced in Canada is lost along the value chain.

The magnitude of this problem presents significant opportunities for businesses along food value chains to reduce waste and increase their profits, while reducing their environmental footprint.

This report by Nicoleta Uzea, Martin Gooch, and David Sparling maps the extent of food waste in Canada. In it, the researchers present findings aimed to advance a coordinated strategy to tackle food waste in Canada.

The Business Case for Food Waste Reduction

Fruition Fruits & Fills, a 40-employee manufacturing plant owned by Tim Hortons, understood the link between food waste and financial performance early in the game. The company’s waste discharge reduction project generated savings of nearly half a million dollars, with 260 per cent return on investment, in the first year alone.

The plant reduced the amount of waste sent to sewer or landfill, and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent. By addressing food waste in this plant, Tim Hortons was also able report savings of enough electricity to power 75 homes, natural gas to heat 59 homes, and water to fill 15 Olympic-size swimming pools.

A Way Forward for the Food Industry

Extending the benefits to the level of the industry requires a collaborative approach that engages multiple stakeholders, including business and consumer associations, government, and NGOs. It is particularly important to integrate the work of businesses at different stages of the value chain. These businesses, and the resulting benefits, depend collaborative waste reduction efforts.

The following figure depicts the distribution of food waste throughout the food value chain in Canada. With 51% of food waste occurring in household, the figure highlights the importance of engaging consumers in efforts to tackle food waste.

Distribution of Food Waste throughout the Food Value Chain (Farm to Fork) in Canada


Source: = Gooch et al., 2010


Common Definition, Shared Understanding

Uzea, Gooch, and Sparling outline the importance a shared definition and shared way of measuring food waste across the food and beverage sector. A shared understanding would enable industry stakeholders to assess the problem, monitor progress, and find solutions.

They suggest the solution to the food waste problem be organized around priorities that recognize the social, environmental, and economic benefits of different measures.

Waste Recovery Hierarchy


Source: US Environmental Protection Agency, as cited in Business for Social Responsibility, 2012


What’s Included in this Report

  • Findings from a literature review on food waste in Canada, including its definition, root causes, and review of notable initiatives to address the problem internationally;

  • Key findings from interviews with industry stakeholders about the sources of the problem and opportunities to tackle it;

  • Highlights from the Food Waste Working Session, held in 2013 with industry stakeholders, to commence the process of developing a coordinated and effective approach to addressing food waste in Canada;

  • Recommendations and next steps for advancing solutions to the food waste problem in Canada.

Who Should Read this Report

This report is designed for leaders and change agents seeking to enhance profitability and sustainability by addressing food waste problems both at the individual business level or across the food and beverage sector. For example:

  • CEOs, directors of operations, and directors of strategy can use the report to get an overview of the issues and opportunities across food and beverage value chains;

  • Operations managers and sustainability managers can use the report to identify key areas for optimization within internal operations and with suppliers.Any stakeholder looking to increase profitability, decrease their environmental footprint, and improve sustainability in the food and beverage industry can use this report to understand who key players are in the industry.


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