Approximately 40% of food produced in the U.S. goes uneaten, contributing to myriad social and environmental problems, and often ending up in landfills.
Food decomposing in landfills emits methane, a greenhouse gas 80 times as potent as CO2. In total, approximately 4.5% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and 23% of U.S. methane emissions result from food waste. If global food waste were a country, its emissions would be 3rd, behind only China and the United States.
25% of water and 31% of land in the U.S. is used to produce food that is wasted throughout the supply chain.
Nearly 50 million Americans, including 16 million children, are food insecure; reducing food waste by just 15% could feed 25 million people every year.
Food waste and loss costs Americans an estimated $165 billion per year. In 2008, the USDA estimated the value of food lost by retailers was $47 billion.
Some retailers are taking action. 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%. British grocery giant Tesco established a zero waste to landfill policy in 2009.
The Consumer Goods Forum has committed to halve food waste from its 400 corporate members by 2025.
Whole Foods Market’s (WFM) peers, Safeway, Target, and Kroger, joined the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, a collaborative industry effort to reduce food waste.
California, Massachusetts and Vermont have laws requiring companies to divert food waste from landfills. These laws often apply to grocery stores, creating regulatory risk for retailers who lack comprehensive food waste plans.
Many environmental organizations are working to address food waste which may lead to negative media attention for retailers like WFM.
While WFM provides anecdotal evidence of efforts to reduce food waste in select stores and provides generalized 2010 data on waste diversion, this limited and outdated information is insufficient to understand its current approach to this issue. The company has yet to disclose a company-wide strategy or current data.
Resolved: Shareholders request Whole Foods Market issue a report by August 1, 2016, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, on company-wide efforts (above and beyond its existing reporting) to assess, disclose, reduce and optimally manage food waste.
Supporting Statement: Items to be covered in the report can include:
• Results of audits to determine the causes, quantity and destination of food waste
• Estimated costs from purchasing, handling, and disposing of excess food
• Estimated savings from reducing food waste
• Prioritization of strategies based on EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy: source reduction, feeding people in need, feeding animals, industrial uses, composting, and landfill
• 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.