World Wildlife Fund Sustainability Works

Better business for a better Earth

At World Wildlife Fund, we believe deeply in the private sector’s ability to drive positive environmental change. WWF Sustainability Works is a forum for discussion around strategies, commitments, technologies and more that will help businesses achieve conservation goals that are good for the planet and their bottom lines. Follow WWF Sustainability Works on twitter at @WWFBetterBiz.

filtered by category: Food and Agriculture

  • Date: 03 April 2024

When we scrape the remains of our dinner plates into the garbage or toss out food that has gone bad in our refrigerators we often think about the social or financial impact of that wasted food. But there is an important environmental connection to food loss and waste that we need to consider as well. When we waste food, the energy used to produce and transport that food also gets wasted. So, if we stop food waste, we can help combat climate change in a big way. In fact, reducing food waste can help reduce about 6-8% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

Continue reading
  • Date: 10 March 2024
  • Author: Ellen Dierenfeld, Lead Specialist, Sustainable Feed Innovation

Many years and another lifetime ago, I headed up the Department of Wildlife Nutrition for the St. Louis Zoo. One day I received a call from the head of a group called “Carpbusters,” who organized bow and fishing tournaments throughout the region to rid the rivers of invasive carp. Sportsmen paid fees to join the festivities, enjoyed their luck with feisty fish, and were awarded prizes for various categories of daily catch.

The lack of a proper outlet for the extracted fish, however, bothered the leaders of this conservation effort as thousands of pounds of high-quality protein rotted on the riverbanks after each weekend. Would the zoo be able to utilize carp for feeding fish-eating species? was the query. They could be delivered fresh and intact, as a free donation.

It was an excellent idea. As with most animal operations, feed costs comprised the largest portion of management, and the annual fish budget was high. If we could make a dent in the budget for feeding endangered species, while at the same time contributing to eradication of invasive species that threatened natives and their habitats, it would be a win-win for conservation.

Continue reading
  • Date: 06 March 2024
  • Author: Danny Miller, Lead Specialist, Aquaculture, WWF

You are what you eat – or, more precisely, you are what you’re eating has eaten. Corn, for example, is so present in the diet and processing of the cows, chickens, and other animals eaten by Americans that the author Michael Pollan, in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” quotes one researcher who calls us “corn chips with legs.”

For companies that produce animal proteins – the beef, fish, and fowl that make up so much of our dinner menus – knowing what is in animal feed is a key to knowing whether their animals are getting the right nutrients.

But there’s a surprising little secret in that world: most livestock and aquaculture producers don’t know the sources, much less the practices, associated with the production of ingredients in the feed that they give their animals.

Continue reading
  • Date: 12 February 2024
  • Author: Sam Wildman, Senior Program Officer, Animal Ag Systems

The US Round Table for Sustainable Poultry and Eggs (US-RSPE) gathered 65 industry leaders, experts, and stakeholders in November 2023 for their annual meeting. This pivotal conference aimed to propel the sector’s sustainability efforts by addressing critical issues within the poultry and egg supply chains and creating a collaborative atmosphere for workshopping shared challenges.

In 2018, WWF was a founding member of the US-RSPE, in part because of the need to encourage market transformation towards sustainable intensification and the need for continuous improvement at speed and scale yet seen. The roundtable has evolved to not only be the thought leader on the sector’s continuous improvement, but to be a space for leaders to collaborate and advance action on shared challenges across the pillars of people, planet, and poultry.

The meeting encouraged and facilitated rich discussion across all three pillars of poultry and egg sustainability – people, planet, and poultry. Robert Bonnie, USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation shared his optimistic perspective of the industry’s progress and opportunities, followed by timely discussions on how to advance the impact each organization has associated with biosecurity and bird health, effective workforce development strategies, and poultry feed sustainability.

Executive Director of US-RSPE, Ryan Bennett, expressed enthusiasm about the outcomes of the meeting, stating, "November was a chance for us to provide the resources and knowledge for the poultry sector to go into 2024 ready to support and change the conversation about poultry sustainability."

The meeting served as a platform to set the course for the organization's growth with the release of a new strategic plan, building on the success of the member-driven metrics framework and its impact on the poultry and egg sector.

A significant achievement highlighted at the conference was the current progress on the Roundtable Framework Tool, the first-ever sustainability assessment tool designed specifically for the poultry and egg industry. With a year of implementation behind them and having met past strategic objectives, US-RSPE is aiming to scale further, supporting the sector's growth and sustainability.

As the Framework continues to be a game changer, Bennett emphasized the organization's commitment to increasing awareness and expanding support to drive positive change within the industry. The US-RSPE annual meeting has proven to be essential for those dedicated to advancing sustainable practices within the poultry and egg sector.

  • Date: 12 February 2024
  • Author: Pete Pearson, Senior Director, Food Loss & Waste

This is a call to all those scrambling to finish their strategies for the Climate Pollution Reduction Grants. Commonly known as CPRG, this EPA program will soon provide $4.6 billion to states, local governments, tribes, and territories to build and unleash ambitious plans for slashing greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollution.

No doubt cities and states nationwide are working in overdrive to drop their Priority Climate Action Plans, or PCAPs, by March 1, gearing up for competitive funding to bring their initiatives to life. Last December, NRDC published a call for action, making a case that adding food waste projects will make the CPRG applications more competitive. Already leading the charge are Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Oregon, throwing down the gauntlet with food waste in their playbook. New Jersey held extensive workshops and community building sessions that looked at food waste.

These climate action blueprints are going to be important. Every state and city must tackle food waste. With CPRG grants in play, there’s a rare opportunity for action since waste systems are controlled by city and state governments and typically require policy and government funding to fix. The proposals must show real climate impact and scalability.

Unfortunately, many climate proposals still fail to address the crisis of food waste, the single largest item in trash. In the US alone, growing food that is wasted generates 170 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, equivalent to those of 42 coal-fired power plants. And that’s not even counting methane emissions from food waste rotting in landfills. Landfills rank third in US methane emissions. Global agriculture devours 40% of the world’s land and 70% of its freshwater and emits one third of global greenhouse gas emissions.

But food waste is more than an environmental issue. World Wildlife Fund estimates that 40% of the world’s food is either lost on farms or tossed away in restaurants, grocery stores, schools, and home kitchens while 780 million of us go to bed hungry. We must revolutionize our food systems to feed more people without wrecking the planet. Cutting down on food waste can be a powerhouse for slashing methane, supporting farmers, and boosting local communities.

Thankfully, there are coalitions and state toolkits available today that can be adapted and scaled. For example, California’s Senate Bill 1383 sets methane reduction targets by curbing disposal of organic waste in landfills. It aims to ensure that edible food is recovered, food scraps are composted, compost is purchased by cities, and that inedible food can be used for industries and animal feed.

Climate action plans aren't one-size-fits-all. What works in one state might not cut it in another. But the silver lining lies in the fact that as cities and states work to address food waste, they can tap into a shared treasure trove of best practices and amplify solutions.

So last call. If your PCAP isn’t shouting “Food Waste!” I suggest you add it immediately. Of course, things like energy and transportation are important, but the picture isn’t complete without regenerative and waste-free food systems.

Pete Pearson is senior director of food waste at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Washington, D.C., where WWF works together with the Zero Food Waste Coalition.

  • Date: 29 January 2024
  • Author: Jason Clay, Executive Director, Markets Institute at WWF

Each year the Markets Institute at WWF releases a list of potential emerging developments that will affect the global food system and will be important for producers, consumers, the private sector, and governments to consider. The topics are identified through research, interviews, data analysis, gleanings from others, and especially through discussions with the Markets Institute’s Thought Leader Group. Here is a condensed version of our full report. As always, we welcome feedback, so please get in touch.

Continue reading
  • Date: 25 January 2024
  • Author: Tara McNerney, Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment Manager, WWF

The oatmeal is steaming, and platters of fresh baked goods and cut fruit sit enticingly at each of the round tables. Asilomar State Park conference center, located on a beautiful nature preserve, has been serving visitors via a family style service that was as unchanged as the protected landscape around it. “We hadn’t changed our service model in over 100 years,” Head Chef David said. On this day, a group of hikers and a sorority alumni summit were the breakfast attendees.

Asilomar conference center food service is run by Aramark, who is a signatory to the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment (PCFWC). Under this commitment, Aramark signed on to work towards the region’s target to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. In the United States, around 38% of food is lost or wasted, which represents 6% of our greenhouse gas emissions and lost potential revenue for businesses. In food service, the bulk of the waste is post-consumer, that is food left on people’s plates. In 2023, Aramark joined the PCFWC’s other two food service signatories, Compass and Sodexo, to launch a collaborative pilot focused on reducing post-consumer plate waste through intentional consumer messaging. Sites put up posters and table tents that called customer’s attention to the problem of food waste. This unprecedented project and collaboration between the food service companies speaks to the model of the PCFWC, which brings together food businesses to share information pre-competitively in order to accelerate the reduction of food waste. Together, these three companies make up nearly 50% of the food service market share in the United States, so the policies and strategies they choose to implement will have a big impact.

Continue reading
  • Date: 09 January 2024
  • Author: Jason Clay

With COP28 now in our rearview mirror, it’s clear that insufficient attention has been paid to what is perhaps the most complex climate issue of all: How to reduce the environmental footprint of producing food and address the impact of climate change on future food production. To address these issues, we should consider what I call the “1% Solution,” which would add a 1% environmental service payment to the price of food exports.

Current market prices do not cover the actual costs of food production in many, if not most, parts of the world. Those costs include what are often referred to as social and environmental externalities—unacceptable impacts like deforestation and conversion, soil erosion and degradation, poor livelihoods for farmers and farm workers, malnutrition and insufficient food.

Most governments can’t afford the fundamental changes to their food systems necessary for more sustainable food production, even as global population and food consumption continue to increase. Global trade, meanwhile, has doubled every 20 years, from 6% of global production in 1980 to 30% in 2020. What if we tapped into that explosive growth in trade to cover the cost of sustainability?

Continue reading
  • Date: 12 December 2023
  • Author: Jason Clay, WWF Senior Vice President and Executive Director, Markets Institute

Over the past decade there have been increasing references in the media about climate change’s disruptive impact on food production. But there is already a more systemic impact on the global food system that we are missing — what I call climate loss.

Climate loss is pre-harvest food loss: the uncalculated losses farmers suffer from not planting a crop, changing crops due to weather, or extreme weather reducing or wiping out a crop before harvest. It can also be caused by increased predation, pests, and diseases that are triggered by climate change.

This is not a new issue. Farmers have long had years when they could not plant crops, or at least the desired crop, because of weather. But the situation is now more extreme than ever.

Continue reading
  • Date: 06 December 2023
  • Author: Jason Clay, WWF Senior Vice President and Executive Director, Markets Institute

Transforming any food system will require new policies and difficult choices. This is particularly true if we acknowledge from the outset that by simply improving the way we produce food, we can achieve 80% absolute reductions of food-related GHG emissions and 50% for the rest of food’s footprint. Current improvement rates will not cut it. We need nothing short of transformation.

The first questions are where the biggest impacts that need to be addressed exist, who is producing them, why, and what incentives could induce them to change. These are the targets. We need to move the bottom, the poorest performers. And since our goals are metrics, our assessments should be as well. The biggest impacts and the most wasteful production come from the least efficient producers.

The bottom 10-20% of producers of any commodity produce 60-80% of the impacts but only 5-10% of the product. By improving their efficiencies, we can achieve absolute reductions of environmental impact at a scale that is both significant and sufficient. More importantly, a focus on these producers is the only way to reduce impacts by 50% absolutely. Working with the better producers will not fix the problem.

Continue reading