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FOOD WASTE: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES IN SUSTAINABLE OPERATIONS

PURPOSE OF THE SPECIAL ISSUE

It is estimated that about 14% of the food produced in the world is lost before it reaches retail outlets (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [FAO], 2019Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2019). The state of food and agriculture: Moving forward on food loss and waste reduction. Rome, Italy. Retrieved from: http://www.fao.org/3/CA6030EN/CA6030EN.pdf
http://www.fao.org/3/CA6030EN/CA6030EN.p...
), while an additional 17% of the food available for consumers is wasted (UNEP, 2021). Reducing and preventing food waste is important because negative externalities occur throughout the entire lifecycle of food and have an adverse impact on society. There are at least three major impacts: economic, environmental and social. Economically, resources used in production are wasted, such as land, water, labor, energy, etc. and profitability. Environmentally, it leads to unnecessary CO2 emissions and air pollution, caused mainly by food being discarded on landfill sites, or being incinerated, and arable land and the machinery involved in producing and transporting food are occupied in vain. From a social and ethical standpoint, food loss and waste jeopardize opportunities for combatting food insecurity, with access to food reducing because of decreased availability, which drives up prices (Cicatiello, Franco, Pancino, & Blasi, 2016Cicatiello, C., Franco, S., Pancino, B., & Blasi, E. (2016). The value of food waste: An exploratory study on retailing. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 30, 96-104. doi: 10.1016/j.jretconser.2016.01.004
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jretconser.201...
; FAO, 2013Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2013). Food wastage footprint: Impacts on natural resources - Summary report. Retrieved from: http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3347e/i3347e.pdf
http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3347e/i33...
; Gustavsson, Cederberg, Sonesson, Otterdijk, & Meybeck, 2011Gustavsson, J., Cederberg, C., Sonesson, U., Otterdijk, R. van, & Meybeck, A. (2011). Global food losses and food waste: Extent, causes and prevention. Rome, Italy: FAO.; Kummu et al., 2012Kummu, M., Moel, H. de, Porkka, M., Siebert, S., Varis, O., & Ward, P. J. (November, 2012). Lost food, wasted resources: Global food supply chain losses and their impacts on freshwater, cropland, and fertiliser use. Science of the Total Environment, 438, 477-489. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.08.092
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012...
; Lundqvist, Fraiture, & Molden, 2008Lundqvist, J., Fraiture, C. de, & Molden, D. (2008). Saving water: From field to fork: curbing losses and wastage in the food chain. Stockholm, Sweden: Stockholm International Water Institute.). Reducing food waste, therefore, can save economic resources, reduce costs, improve food security, minimize negative social and environmental impacts, and help answer the growing pressure that businesses are facing to become more sustainable (Thyberg & Tonjes, 2016Thyberg, K. L., & Tonjes, D. J. (Janury, 2016). Drivers of food waste and their implications for sustainable policy development. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 106, 110-123. doi: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2015.11.016
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2015...
), all of which help create a sustainable food system (Lipinski et al., 2013Lipinski, B., Hanson, C., Lomax, J., Kitinoja, L., Waite, R., & Searchinger, T. (2013). Reducing food loss and waste. World Resources Institute Working Paper , 1-40.). Reducing and preventing food waste also meets the Agenda 2030 goals, since target 12.3 aims to halve food loss and waste in supply chains by 2030 (UN General Assembly, 2015UN General Assembly. (2015, Outubro 21). Transforming our world: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A/RES/70/1. Retrieved from: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1⟪=E
http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp...
). Due to the complex nature of food supply, however, it is a big challenge for researchers and practitioners alike (Raak, Symmank, Zahn, Aschemann-Witzel, & Rohm, 2017Raak, N., Symmank, C., Zahn, S., Aschemann-Witzel, J., & Rohm, H. (March, 2017). Processing-and product-related causes for food waste and implications for the food supply chain. Waste Management, 61, 461-472. doi: 10.1016/j.wasman.2016.12.027.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2016.12...
).

Food waste solutions, therefore, are the new frontier in the search for sustainability in operations management. Achieving target 12.3 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to halve food waste requires multidisciplinary efforts from all the stakeholders in food systems.

Covid-19 has increased the urgency to fight food waste, especially in terms of redistributing food to those vulnerable people who are affected by pandemics, and multiple efforts are being made by public, private and the third sectors to tackle food insecurity and hunger. The net effect of the pandemic on food waste will depend on how long it lasts, and on the impact it has on the global economy, on agri-food supply chains, and on households, as well as on the measures that are being taken by local authorities, and regional, national and global pandemic management (Burlea-Schiopoiu et al., 2021Burlea-Schiopoiu, A., Ogarca, R. F., Barbu, C. M., Craciun, L., Baloi, I. C., & Mihai, L. S. (2021). The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on food waste behaviour of young people. Journal of Cleaner Production, 294. doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2021.126333
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2021.1...
). We believe that this Special Forum, which was created before Covid-19 changed our lives, is an important reading and learning opportunity for all of us, as consumers, citizens and researchers.

Contribution of the papers in this Special Forum

The call for papers for this Special Forum resulted in a very competitive selection of 37 being submitted. After several rounds of blind review, six papers were selected for this Special Forum. They clearly illustrate the challenges of carrying out research into sustainable operations and food waste reduction. They examine a variety of units of analysis and theories, which are embedded in different geographical contexts, and use a variety of analytical methods. What they all have in common is that they reveal just how applicable research aimed at finding solutions for reducing food waste is. In this Introductory article, we summarize the contributions of each of these six papers to the literature.

The first paper of this Special Forum (Costa, Campos, & Santana, 2021Costa, M., F. da, Campos, P. de, O., & Santana, P., N. de. (2021). Procrastination, control and perceived effort in food waste behaviour. RAE-Revista de Administração de Empresas , 61(5), e2020-0451. doi: 10.1590/S0034-759020210504x
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-7590202105...
) reports the findings of an on-line survey of how consumer procrastination behavior relates to food waste, with 279 respondents answering questions that were analyzed using structural equation modelling. Findings are counterintuitive since procrastination has no direct relationship with food waste behavior. The paper uses the findings to illustrate the consumer side of food waste research and pose new questions. It contributes to our understanding of behavioral aspects of consumers related to food waste that can be helpful for promoting a sustainable food system.

Based on a systematic literature review, the second paper of this Special Forum (Santos & Martins, 2021Santos, P., H., A., & Martins, R., A. (2021). Food Waste and Performance Measurement Systems: A Systematic Review of the Literature. RAE-Revista de Administração de Empresas , 61(5), e2020-0466. doi: 10.1590/S0034-759020210505x
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-7590202105...
) analyzes performance measurement systems and food waste. Findings reveal a conceptual map of the field and show how to move towards measuring supply chain performance systems. It contributes to food waste research by taking a supply chain perspective that can be applied to the flow of different food products.

The third paper of this special issue (Kazancoglu, Ekinei, Ozen, & Pala, 2021Kazancoglu, Y., Ekinci, E., Ozen, Y., D., O., & Pala, M., O. (2021). Reducing food waste through lean and sustainable operations: A case study from the poultry industry. RAE-Revista de Administração de Empresas, 61(5), e2020-0226. doi: 10.1590/S0034-759020210503
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-7590202105...
) describes the key elements of value stream mapping and illustrates it with a case study in Turkey. The study examines a single point, a meat processing plant, and is prescriptive for operations managers. It shows how a lean approach can minimize food waste in one focal company, and move it towards the circular economy.

The fourth paper is a systematic literature review of elements of resilience in food waste practices and the causes (Costa, Moraes, Silva, Pereira, Delai, & Jabbour, 2021Costa, F., H. de, O., Moraes, C., C., Silva, A., L. da, Pereira, C., R., Delai, I., & Sousa Jabbour, A., B., L. de. (2021). Does resilience impact food waste? Moving the debate on. RAE-Revista de Administração de Empresas, 61(5), e2020-0336. doi: 10.1590/S0034-759020210506
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-7590202105...
). The study focuses on the application of elements of resilience at a single point on the supply chain, retail trade. The retail trade holds a powerful position in food distribution worldwide and by examining the theory this study points out important actions that can reduce food waste in retail operations.

The fifth paper is a single case study from a digital platform in Brazil (Moltene & Orsato, 2021Moltene, L., & Orsato, R., J. (2021). The sharing economy in practice: An exploratory study of the acceptance and use of digital platforms in food waste reduction. RAE-Revista de Administração de Empresas, 61(5), e2020-0469. doi: 10.1590/S0034-759020210508
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-7590202105...
). Digitalization in the food supply chain has been a major trend and this study focuses on the different kinds of digital platforms. It describes a case study of a digital platform that connects businesses that have surplus food with consumers. The study contributes to our understanding of the use and acceptance of this type of business model, which can help reduce food waste.

Using a single case study, the sixth paper of this Special Forum looked at the amount of food wasted by consumers in a Brazilian university dining hall during lunch time, and explored the factors that influence variations in the amount of food wasted (Deliberador, Batalha, Chung, & Cesar, 2021Deliberador, L., R., Batalha, M., O., Chung, M., & Cesar, A. Da, S. (2021). Food waste: Evidence from a university dining hall in Brazil. RAE-Revista de Administração de Empresas , 61(5), e2020-0271http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0034-759020210507
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0034-75902021...
) With the findings of this study indicating that one of the causes of food waste is large portion sizes, which relate directly to the amount of food wasted, the paper suggests possible interventions for reducing it.

FINAL REMARKS

Moving to production and consumption that are more sustainable is no easy matter. Research has been suggesting solutions, but they tend to focus on the consumer or the supply chain. This special issue contains relevant and rigorous research into the topic, mainly from an emerging country perspective. There is still the challenge, however, of how to integrate the consumer and supply chain sides using mixed methods in the same research, since the reasons food is wasted along the supply chain, from producer to household, are interconnected and require systemic analysis. We hope that this Special Forum contributes to advancing research into ways of reducing food waste.

We hope you enjoy your read.

REFERENCES

  • Burlea-Schiopoiu, A., Ogarca, R. F., Barbu, C. M., Craciun, L., Baloi, I. C., & Mihai, L. S. (2021). The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on food waste behaviour of young people. Journal of Cleaner Production, 294 doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2021.126333
    » https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2021.126333
  • Cicatiello, C., Franco, S., Pancino, B., & Blasi, E. (2016). The value of food waste: An exploratory study on retailing. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 30, 96-104. doi: 10.1016/j.jretconser.2016.01.004
    » https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jretconser.2016.01.004
  • Costa, F., H. de, O., Moraes, C., C., Silva, A., L. da, Pereira, C., R., Delai, I., & Sousa Jabbour, A., B., L. de. (2021). Does resilience impact food waste? Moving the debate on. RAE-Revista de Administração de Empresas, 61(5), e2020-0336. doi: 10.1590/S0034-759020210506
    » https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-759020210506
  • Costa, M., F. da, Campos, P. de, O., & Santana, P., N. de. (2021). Procrastination, control and perceived effort in food waste behaviour. RAE-Revista de Administração de Empresas , 61(5), e2020-0451. doi: 10.1590/S0034-759020210504x
    » https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-759020210504x
  • Deliberador, L., R., Batalha, M., O., Chung, M., & Cesar, A. Da, S. (2021). Food waste: Evidence from a university dining hall in Brazil. RAE-Revista de Administração de Empresas , 61(5), e2020-0271http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0034-759020210507
    » http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0034-759020210507
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2013). Food wastage footprint: Impacts on natural resources - Summary report Retrieved from: http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3347e/i3347e.pdf
    » http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3347e/i3347e.pdf
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2019). The state of food and agriculture: Moving forward on food loss and waste reduction Rome, Italy. Retrieved from: http://www.fao.org/3/CA6030EN/CA6030EN.pdf
    » http://www.fao.org/3/CA6030EN/CA6030EN.pdf
  • Gustavsson, J., Cederberg, C., Sonesson, U., Otterdijk, R. van, & Meybeck, A. (2011). Global food losses and food waste: Extent, causes and prevention Rome, Italy: FAO.
  • Kazancoglu, Y., Ekinci, E., Ozen, Y., D., O., & Pala, M., O. (2021). Reducing food waste through lean and sustainable operations: A case study from the poultry industry. RAE-Revista de Administração de Empresas, 61(5), e2020-0226. doi: 10.1590/S0034-759020210503
    » https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-759020210503
  • Kummu, M., Moel, H. de, Porkka, M., Siebert, S., Varis, O., & Ward, P. J. (November, 2012). Lost food, wasted resources: Global food supply chain losses and their impacts on freshwater, cropland, and fertiliser use. Science of the Total Environment, 438, 477-489. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.08.092
    » https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.08.092
  • Lipinski, B., Hanson, C., Lomax, J., Kitinoja, L., Waite, R., & Searchinger, T. (2013). Reducing food loss and waste. World Resources Institute Working Paper , 1-40.
  • Lundqvist, J., Fraiture, C. de, & Molden, D. (2008). Saving water: From field to fork: curbing losses and wastage in the food chain Stockholm, Sweden: Stockholm International Water Institute.
  • Moltene, L., & Orsato, R., J. (2021). The sharing economy in practice: An exploratory study of the acceptance and use of digital platforms in food waste reduction. RAE-Revista de Administração de Empresas, 61(5), e2020-0469. doi: 10.1590/S0034-759020210508
    » https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-759020210508
  • Raak, N., Symmank, C., Zahn, S., Aschemann-Witzel, J., & Rohm, H. (March, 2017). Processing-and product-related causes for food waste and implications for the food supply chain. Waste Management, 61, 461-472. doi: 10.1016/j.wasman.2016.12.027.
    » https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2016.12.027
  • Santos, P., H., A., & Martins, R., A. (2021). Food Waste and Performance Measurement Systems: A Systematic Review of the Literature. RAE-Revista de Administração de Empresas , 61(5), e2020-0466. doi: 10.1590/S0034-759020210505x
    » https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-759020210505x
  • Thyberg, K. L., & Tonjes, D. J. (Janury, 2016). Drivers of food waste and their implications for sustainable policy development. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 106, 110-123. doi: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2015.11.016
    » https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2015.11.016
  • UN General Assembly. (2015, Outubro 21). Transforming our world: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A/RES/70/1. Retrieved from: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1⟪=E
    » http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1⟪=E

Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    23 Aug 2021
  • Date of issue
    2021
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