Whole Foods Market – Food Waste (2017)
40% of food produced in the U.S. goes uneaten, costing the American economy $218 billion per year, or 1.3% of GDP.
Food decomposing in landfills emits approximately 23% of U.S. methane emissions, a greenhouse gas 84 times as potent as CO2. Production of uneaten food consumes 21% of U.S. freshwater, 19% of fertilizer and 18% of cropland. If global food waste were a country, its emissions would be 3rd, behind only China and the United States.
Nearly 50 million Americans, including 16 million children, are food insecure; reducing food waste by just 15% could feed 25 million people every year.
Some grocery retailers are taking action to capitalize on related financial opportunities. Stop & Shop saved an estimated $100 million annually by reducing losses of perishables while providing items that were 3 days fresher on average. Price Chopper reduced bakery item losses by $2 million in one year, while increasing sales by 3%.
The 400 members of The Consumer Goods Forum have committed to halve food waste by 2025. Safeway, Publix and Kroger have joined the Food Waste Reduction Alliance and have provided comprehensive, metrics-based disclosure on their food waste management efforts.
While WFM provides anecdotal evidence of its food waste reduction efforts in select stores, it has yet to report on its food waste management strategy or disclose current, company-wide data on food waste prevention or diversion.
Several states have laws that commonly require retailers to divert food waste from landfills, creating regulatory risk for those who lack adequate diversion strategies. Food waste related legislation has also been introduced in the U.S. Congress and the EPA announced a national target to reduce food waste 50 percent by 2030.
In addition, many non-governmental organizations are working to raise awareness of the impacts of food waste that may lead to negative media attention for retailers like WFM.
In light of these political and industry trends, we believe Whole Foods Market and its shareholders are positioned to benefit from a comprehensive approach to food waste prevention and strategic diversion that can cut costs, provide competitive advantage, strengthen brand reputation, save resources, help alleviate hunger and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Resolved: Shareholders request Whole Foods Market issue a report, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, on company-wide efforts (above and beyond its existing reporting) to assess, reduce and optimally manage food waste.
Supporting Statement: Items to be covered in the report can include:
• Results of audits to determine the causes, quantities and destinations of food waste
• Estimated cost savings from optimized food purchasing, handling, and disposal
• Prioritization of strategies based on EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy
• Identification of additional revenue streams and possible tax benefits from new uses of previously wasted food
• Time bound targets to reduce waste and progress towards meeting these targets.