The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), with support from The Rockefeller Foundation and the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), has launched a series of pilot projects aimed at further reducing food waste in the hotel industry.
WWF and AHLA developed the projects in conjunction with a working group from AHLA’s Food & Beverage Committee and Sustainability Committee. Hotel brands participating in the projects include Hilton, Hyatt, IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) and Marriott International, as well as Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, Sage Hospitality and Terranea Resort. The pilots were also developed with the support of The Rockefeller Foundation’s YieldWise Initiative, which aims to reduce post-harvest food loss and halve the world’s food waste by 2030.
The WWF launched a food waste program in 2015. It initially started a partnership with Hilton to examine food waste, sustainable seafood and ocean stewardship. But the group realized it needed to have an industry wide conversation, says Pete Pearson, Director of Food Waste at World Wildlife Fund.
WWF learned that AHLA had started work on food waste that included a subcommittee of all the major hotel brands engaging on food waste. The groups were able to strike a partnership and then received financial support from the Rockefeller Foundation to develop programs.
The focus of the groups’ effort will be to scale prevention.
“Most of the time when you think of food waste, it is composting or donating leftovers,” Pearson says. “We’re trying to tackle prevention.”
That provides a challenge since hotel environments vary greatly. Some manage large conferences and events. Others have extensive food and beverage operations. Some operate morning buffets. But regardless of the specificities, the groups are encouraging individual hotel managers to evaluate what they’re producing, what’s being thrown away and trying to minimize overproduction.
Hotels participating in the pilot will separate and measuring how much food waste they generate. That will set baselines against which progress will be measured.
“We want to heighten awareness and see how much they can reduce,” Pearson says, likening it to a Weight Watchers’ program. “They’ll do a weekly weigh-in and seeing how much they trim.”
After the pilot, the groups will share success stories and use the experiences to develop an industry toolkit that they aim to make available by the end of 2017.
“For us it’s about preventing food waste form even happening,” Pearson adds. “It’s better for the business and it’s better for the environment. We don’t grow food to compost it. We are trying to find solutions that scale across entire industries.”
WWF and the AHLA joined forces to build on AHLA’s previous work with hotel brands to develop actionable projects to prevent food waste through better food management. The hotels’ cooperation demonstrates their commitment to solving this important issue.
“The hotel and lodging industry takes pride in its dedication to fulfilling our environmental responsibilities, and we recognize the leadership role we can play in continuing to advance sustainability efforts like food waste reduction programs,” AHLA President and CEO Katherine Lugar said in a statement. “The industry has a unique opportunity to raise awareness and design the guidelines, tools and resources needed to make a difference—the participation of some of America's largest brands in these pilot programs underscores the industry’s long-term sustainability commitments. Through these programs and the leadership of World Wildlife Fund and The Rockefeller Foundation, we look forward to being a part of a worldwide solution to food waste.”
Recent research conducted by World Wildlife Fund shows a strong need for industry-wide training and education on food waste reduction among hotel properties, and a general lack of measurement and tracking of food waste. Each pilot project within the program has been developed to tackle a critical step along the food waste supply chain. This includes measuring food waste outputs on a regular basis, improving employee training programs, creating menus designed to limit food waste and raising awareness with customers.
“We’ve already seen that hotel guests are more than willing to conserve water and energy, simply by placing a card on their pillows or hanging their towels. Our hunch is that they’ll also take action to be part of the fight to cut food waste,” Devon Klatell, associate director, The Rockefeller Foundation, said in a statement. “Our support of WWF – part of our $130 million, 7-year YieldWise initiative – seeks to find the simple steps they can take to be part of the solution, one breakfast buffet plate and one room service tray at a time. And once we’ve succeeded in cutting hospitality food waste, we can take those learnings to other sectors like restaurants and retail.”
Following this week’s launch, WWF, AHLA and The Rockefeller Foundation plan to roll out additional activities for individual hotel properties to participate in. A toolkit that reports on key findings, best practices and next steps to tackle food waste in the hotel industry will be published.