On the climate crisis, about 30 percent, or a third, of total greenhouse gases (GHG’s) comes from food systems. A recent study by FAO shows emissions from pre- and post-production processes around food, such as manufacturing of fertilizers, food processing, packaging, transport, retail, household consumption and food waste disposal, doubled between 1990 and 2019 and are on course to overtake emissions caused by land use change. For example, decay of solid food waste in landfills and open dumpsites is a significant emitter of methane, a GHG whose global warming potential is 28-34 times that of CO2. Businesses are largely in charge of the pre- and post-production processes and as such have a significant role in cutting GHGs in this part of the food system.

For people, food and nutritional insecurity continue to rise in poor countries despite sufficient global food production. According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report of 2022, hunger affected an average of 765 million people globally in 2021. Out of this, 278 million were in Africa (20.2 percent of the population). The world produces 1.5 times enough food to feed everyone on the planet, but poverty and inequality hinders a majority of the world’s poor form accessing food. Global policies of trade exacerbate poverty and inequality by allocating food and agriculture inputs to already well-off segments of the society. This fuels the poverty-environment nexus — where communities in poor countries clear natural habitats to feed themselves, with negative impacts on the environment. These negative cycles can be halted if governments and businesses, embraced policies of zero waste to food.

On the major solutions to these problems is a circular food system. This construct consists of three principles: producing food in ways that protects and regenerates nature; addressing the challenge of food loss and food waste; and converting materials that would have otherwise gone to waste into useful products.

How businesses can help catalyze circular food systems

1. Pay the premium
2. Invest in innovations to address food loss
3. Invest in circularity in food waste

Read the full article about circular economy by Susan Chomba at GreenBiz.