Primary SDG Focus
How was your primary SDG focus identified and prioritized in the company’s value chain?
The United Nations estimates that approximately 1.3 billon tonnes of food – or about one-third of all food produced in the world – is lost or wasted each year. This generates greenhouse gas emissions that, in aggregate, ranks third to what China and the United States produce annually. Beyond the impact on carbon footprint, reversing food waste can help reduce hunger worldwide by preserving enough food to feed two billion people, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. In Canada alone, 60 per cent of all the food we produce is wasted, and of this total 32 per cent is edible food. That’s 11.2 million metric tonnes of wasted edible food each year – enough to feed about 17 million people!
As part of a global food service company, Sodexo Canada recognized early on that we can make a meaningful impact on the problem of food waste and hunger by leading the fight against this global issue. We’re at the front lines where food is prepared and served to millions of people across the country every day. We knew that by tackling food waste through responsible production and consumption, we would also be advancing two of our most important corporate social responsibility mandates: to stop hunger worldwide, and to protect the environment. With this in mind, we brought forward the reduction of food waste as a key priority that needed to be integrated into our day-to-day operations.
How was your primary SDG integrated and anchored throughout your business?
At Sodexo Canada, food service represents 65 per cent of our daily business. To effectively tackle food waste, we needed to address three areas key areas in our food service operation: menu planning, food preparation and service, and food waste / surplus food removal.
- We developed a proprietary Food Management System that covers waste reduction through the entire culinary process, from menu planning to service and post-production.
- This year, we implemented our Waste Watch program, which uses industry-leading Leanpath technology to track food waste at our sites based on data entered by our operators.
- Through our Waste Awareness campaign and other public outreach initiatives, we educate the consumers who eat the food we serve about the importance of reducing or even eliminating food waste.
- A number of our locations have signed up with FoodRescue.ca, an online platform that matches businesses looking to safely donate surplus food with not-for-profit organizations that distribute food to people in need.
- We teamed up with Genecis Bioindustries, a Toronto company that turns food waste into bioplastic granules that can be moulded into fully biodegradable plastic products.
On a global level, Sodexo helped to launch the International Food Waste Coalition, which brings together the world’s largest food and food services companies to find ways to reduce surplus food. We are also part of Champions 12.3, a new group comprised of major company CEOs, governments, research institutions, foundations, farmer organizations and civil society groups – all working towards reducing food waste.
Did you employ any innovative approaches in your efforts to implement the goal?
- Our partnership with Genecis Bioindustries is an amazing story of nature-made innovation. Each week, we divert almost 400 kilograms of food waste from landfills to Genecis. Scientists at Genecis introduce two groups of bacteria into this food waste: the first group eats the waste and turns it into carbon cells, then the second group eats the carbon cells and turns them into fully biodegradable bioplastic granules. This process also generates byproducts that can be composted and turned into fertilizer. Our goal is to get our suppliers to use the bioplastic granules to make food containers, cutlery and other tableware that we use in our food service operations. This creates a full “circular economy” solution that will see food waste from our kitchens and customer tables return to our cafeterias as fully biodegradable consumer products.
- Powering our Waste Watch program with Leanpath technology is another way we’re innovating to further our goal. Leanpath is an online platform that captures food preparation and waste data through a network of connected devices such as weighing scales and sensors integrated into waste bins, and cameras. By analyzing this data, our culinary teams can change the way they buy ingredients and plan their menus, with a goal of reducing food waste. For example, a kitchen using asparagus for a salad might also add asparagus soup to the week’s menu to make good use of asparagus stalks.
We’re also in the process of creating a menu development software which will align with Waste Watch.
Were any partnerships leveraged or created?
We’ve forged and leveraged a number of partnerships to help us advance our sustainable development goal:
- Genecis Bioindustries, a Toronto-based company that turns food waste into bioplastic through a specially engineered cocktail of naturally occurring bacteria
- Leanpath, a Beaverton, Oregon company that provides technology platforms that help food service organizations track and reduce food waste
- Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue charity and creator of FoodRescue.ca, an online platform that matches surplus food donors to organizations that distribute food to those in need
- International Food Coalition, based in Belgium, which enables us to collaborate with co-founding companies that include Ardo, McCain, PepsiCo, SCA, Unilever Food Solutions and WWF
Champions 12.3, a coalition of executives from governments, businesses, international organizations, research institutions, farmer groups and civil society dedicated to finding solutions to achieve SDG Target 12.3 by 2030
What communications strategy did you employ to share the initiative with your stakeholders?
- We share details and progress on our food waste initiatives with our Sodexo team members through internal communication such as email, newsletters, the company Intranet and printed material such as posters and brochures.
- For external stakeholders, such as third-party organizations we’ve partnered with, the consumers who eat the food we serve, and the general public, we communicate through media releases, social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter), community events and television appearances.
For our initiatives through the International Food Waste Coalition, Sodexo and its coalition partners went straight to elementary schools in Europe to educate children on the importance of not wasting food, and to provide tips that can help them reduce their individual food waste. The next step is to provide information packages to educators, school cafeteria and kitchen staff and other organizations in the school food chain.
How were KPIs and the levels of success outlined and defined?
As part of our sustainable development goal towards more responsible production and consumption, we set a target to reduce food waste by 50 per cent by the year 2025. Our ultimate goal is waste-free production and consumption.
Through our newly deployed Leanpath-powered Waste Watch platform, we are tracking the following measures for food waste reduction:
- Waste food from overproduction
- Waste food from prepared food that has exceeded its time or temperature limit
- Food waste from trimmings and by-products generated during service preparation (e.g., carrot peels, meat trim from bones)
- Inventory lost due to rot, mould or date expiration
- Excess food from meetings or events that was ordered but not consumed
- Food loss from handling errors such as dropping, overcooking, cross-contamination or not meeting taste or aesthetic standards
- Food loss due to malfunction of equipment
- Food left on plates by consumers
How were reporting and monitoring conceptualized and undertaken?
Using our new Waste Watch platform, we started by measuring the actual volumes of food wasted and by analyzing what parts of our culinary and service processes generated the most waste. Reports from all this data show us:
- Total weight (over a period of time) of food ingredients and products that are wasted for various reasons ranging from overproduction and inventory spoilage to equipment malfunction and consumer waste
- What parts of our culinary and service processes generate the most food waste
- Financial impact of our food waste
With these measures as a baseline, we set out a strategy for reducing our food waste through more streamlined purchasing and production, as well as through our efforts to donate food to community agencies that distribute them to people in need.
What were some key lessons learned? Please also elaborate on any setbacks you may have encountered.
- Everyone has to get on board. Our food service operations are run by large teams. For our efforts to succeed, everyone has to believe in the cause and do their part. This underlines the importance of communicating with our stakeholders to ensure they understand the reasons why we’re working towards reducing, and ultimately eliminating, food waste.
- We need to be open to ideas – even when they’re so fantastical. Who knew throwing particular bacteria into food waste could turn it into bioplastics? And why would anyone want to use food containers and cutlery made from food waste? To achieve ambitious goals, we need to think out of the box and work with partners who are also innovative thinkers.
- Measurement is key and technology makes measuring better. We’ve always tracked our food waste at each site. But with our new Waste Watch platform, we get more accurate and detailed insight into what, where, how and how much food we’re wasting on an aggregate level.
- The right partners are critical. Our partnership with Genecis, for example, aligns perfectly with our objective of achieving a full circular economy within our operations and supply chain. As part of this goal, we’ve introduced Genecis to our suppliers so they can work together to bring the food waste-originated bioplastics back into our food service operations in the form of biodegradable food containers and tableware.
- We need to change how we think and how we do what we do everyday. We need to think of waste as being unacceptable and make day-to-day decisions based on this thinking.
What were the key impacts and results?
Our Waste Watch program can prevent 50 per cent of food waste on average and we are deploying it to 3,000 sites worldwide over the coming year. We would also like to highlight interim results from a few projects:
- Our food service team at Vancouver Coastal Health has reduced food waste to 14 per cent from 35 per cent in 2012 by transforming patients’ food menu to seasonal, culturally diverse dishes with sustainably sourced ingredients. This change has led to less food being thrown out and increased patient satisfaction.
- At the Quebecor Media Groupe TVA site in Montreal, our food service team has achieved zero waste in meal preparation.
- Last year, we donated 2,214 pounds of food through FoodRescue.ca. Since then, more Sodexo sites have signed on to the platform.
- From an initial pilot project that saw us diverting 120 kilograms of food waste per week from landfill to Genecis Bioindustries, we now haul 400 kilograms of food waste for conversion to fully biodegradable bioplastic granules.
- At our food service site at Lower Mattagami, a recent Waste Awareness campaign resulted in food waste reduced to 1.08 pounds per person per day, from the previous benchmark of 1.55 pounds per person daily. This represents a 30 per cent reduction in food waste for the location, or a total of 466 pounds of food per day.