Tackling food waste

Published: 30/05/2023

As part of our #FoodFuture project we’re speaking to experts about how to best achieve more sustainable food systems. We spoke to Unilever to find out how they’re tackling food waste in the supply chain.

Food loss and waste is a global crisis with one-third of all food produced globally lost or wasted.  Tackling food waste is an opportunity to address food insecurity, protect natural resources and mitigate climate change – and it requires a holistic approach.

As one of the world’s biggest food producers, we want to protect and preserve food – for everyone across our value chain – starting in our own operations.

A winning mindset starts in our factories

Leadership driven change in culture and mindset has been the key to successful reduction of food waste in several of our factories. This in combination with clear target setting, training of teams as well as digitisation of results to allow for real time monitoring of waste, often lead to not only having less food waste but in many cases better efficiency too.

Our employees in the French factory at Chevigny have been using a tracking platform to bring visibility to operators on largest waste areas, from which loss stratification & counter measures are identified. At the same time, the factory makes sure employees are committed to reducing waste, while cultivating ‘Zero Foods waste’ culture & values. Employees are educated about both environmental & financial impact of foods waste, hence they are motivated to optimize their daily operation. As a result, factory has reduced food waste by 15% in 2022.

A team at the Heilbronn factory, where we manufacture many of our Knorr products, has successfully developed a prototype machine to recover the contents of rejected products, which significantly reduces food waste. In an unprecedented and creative way, a prototype was created – so successfully, in fact, that it is now being manufactured by a professional machine builder and will soon go into production in Heilbronn.

Partnering for a world without food waste

Accurate data is crucial to our food waste reduction programme. We follow the Target-Measure-Act approach from Champions 12.3 to ensure that we’re measuring and managing food waste in a meaningful way. The Global Food Loss and Waste Standard guides our methodology for accounting and reporting on how much food is lost or wasted in our manufacturing operations.

But when it comes to food waste, we view partnership as the new leadership and we’re embracing collaboration with others for change – that includes suppliers, retailers, our peers and governments. We encourage both governments and companies to apply the Target-Measure-Act approach to dramatically accelerate efforts to halve food waste by:

  • Adopting explicit food loss and waste reduction targets that align with Sustainable Development Goal target 12.3;
  • Developing an EU harmonised approach for measurement and reporting;
  • Implementing strategies to tackle food waste from farm to fork, including EU guidelines and training tools to ensure best practices sharing and ensure R&I funds to support and promote circularity as well as in consumer-facing behaviour change campaigns to address household food waste.