Meanwhile, one in six people in the U.S. lack a secure supply of food, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), yet 40% of food grown is wasted—that’s an estimated 70 billion pounds of food each year. At the same time, 795 million people worldwide are chronically undernourished, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
“Getting food to our tables eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of freshwater consumed in the United States,” according to an NRDC report on wasted food. “Not only does this mean that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also 25 percent of all freshwater and huge amounts of unnecessary chemicals, energy, and land.”
Moreover, if wasted food were a country, it would be third in greenhouse gas generation behind the U.S. and China. Nutrition is also a big part of the wasted food equation, the NRDC said. “Food saved by reducing losses by just 15 percent could feed more than 25 million Americans every year.”
Speaking at Natural Products ExpoWest in March, Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s and co-CEO of Conscious Capitalism, Inc., said that businesses can and should be positive forces for social change. Mr. Rauch is also the founder and president of Daily Table, which takes an innovative retail approach to providing affordable, wholesome food to the economically disadvantaged and underserved in inner cities.
“We have an opportunity here for something really magnificent, and we need to aim higher,” he said. “Profits are the air that businesses breathe; they are your biological need. But that’s not why you exist.” Purpose is much more profound, he added. “I believe profits allow us to go on and make contributions that are much deeper than making money.”
Entrepreneurs need to make culture a foundational element of their business in order to drive innovation and disruption, he said, citing a famous dictum of management consultant, educator, and author Peter Drucker: “Innovate or die.”
The cycle of waste needs to be broken, or it will break us. The solution to society’s many challenges isn’t to gut federal funding for food programs or health research—or the arts, the environment, and public broadcasting. Those proposed budget cuts are political statements, not real cost-saving measures; and that’s just no way to do business.