Many businesses still take discarding food waste for granted, despite the financial benefits of a circular approach. Rabobank has joined the new Taskforce Circular Economy in Food to help promote systemic change.
“One of the difficulties with food waste is that nobody has been willing to take ownership,” says Alain Cracau, Director of Sustainable Business Development & Advisory at Rabobank. “Rabobank is committed to promoting a circular approach in the food sector. That’s why we have joined the Taskforce Circular Economy in Food, an initiative by Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands.”
The Taskforce presented its plans for tackling food waste in the Netherlands on March 20. It declared that it plans to halve food waste along the entire food supply chain by 2030 and revealed its slogan: ‘United against food waste’.
The ‘United against food waste’ launch on March 20, 2018
Taskforce members span the entire food supply chain and range from SMEs to multinationals. Participating in it dovetails with Rabobank’s 'Growing a better world together' mission and its ‘Banking for Food’ strategy. The bank demonstrates its contribution to achieving the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in this report. The focus this year is on climate-friendly agriculture and reducing food waste.
Food waste is smart business
Cracau: “Producing more food on more land isn’t an option. We have to extract value from food waste instead. Food waste is smart business, which is why companies should take action. And herein lies a key role for the bank: We can bring companies from across the entire food supply chain together because we are in contact with all of them.” Cracau is pleased to see the far-reaching ambitions of companies and governmental agencies, but believes it is important to take action now. “There is a world of potential, but we really have to start tapping into it now.”
"There’s a lot of potential, but we have to start tapping into it"- Alain Cracau, Director of Sustainable Business Development & Advisory
Consortium of large companies
Entrepreneur Bob Hutten, who previously set up the Surplus Food Factory, is also the founder of THREE-SIXTY, a circular economy innovation center. The latter brings together entrepreneurs, students and start-ups to develop and test innovative concepts for food issues.
“We saw that there wasn’t a central organization for people wanting to fight food waste,” says Hutten. “THREE-SIXTY provides information on preventing and reducing food waste, and gaining value from residual waste streams. We concluded that we need to build a consortium of large players who all take a stand against food waste. And Rabobank is a fantastic ally in the endeavor.”
Toine Timmermans, Circularity in Food Program Manager at Wageningen University & Research, is the main source of inspiration for the taskforce. “Bob Hutten and I are the driving forces behind this initiative,” he says. Timmermans is convinced that, “food waste is a symptom of a poorly functioning food system”. That is why reducing waste and systemic change must go hand in hand. Hutten and Cracau also see food waste as part of a transition to a circular food system.
"Food waste is a symptom of a poorly functioning food system"- Toine Timmermans, Circularity in Food Program Manager at Wageningen University & Research
The business case
Timmermans explains that fighting food waste generates returns. “Each euro invested yields fourteen euros,” he says. “Companies don’t often tap into these potential returns yet because they lack knowledge, entire processes would have to be changed, or opportunities arise somewhere else in the chain. Wwhen companies do tackle food waste, they often do so in a fragmented way on multiple fronts and do not share the acquired knowledge. That’s why a joint approach like the Taskforce provides a solution. Companies can learn from each other and encourage one another.” The collective objective is to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030.
Setting an example internationally
“The Netherlands isn’t necessarily performing better than other countries in the field of food waste, but we are the first country to have a serious taskforce,” says Timmermans. “Even though we’re not yet communicating extensively about it, more and more people are looking to the Netherlands as an example.” Timmermans is hopeful that the Taskforce will bring about change in the food sector. “It’s time to put words into action: we have to solve food waste now,” he says.
Cracau hopes that more companies who want to achieve circularity in the food sector will join the Taskforce: “It’s the right path for companies who want to take real action in the field of circularity.”