Why and How to Measure Food Loss and Waste

About - Why and How to Measure Food Loss and Waste

Practical Guide - Version 2.0 Presentation: Why and How to Measure Food Loss and Waste

Version 2.0

Version 2.0 of the guide, which was developed in 2020, provides a number of improvements upon the initial release based on feedback and input from pilot testers, expert contributors, and other individuals and organizations consulted by the authors. These improvements were designed to make the guide more user-friendly and allow readers to more easily find the material most useful to them. In addition, a number of new tools and case studies are available at http://www3.cec.org/flwm/ to assist users in measuring FLW. These tools provide information and activities to help businesses, institutions and others prevent, recover and recycle FLW.


Across North America, businesses, institutions and others increasingly realize the enormous impacts of food loss and waste. Uneaten food represents social, environmental and economic costs, but also a large opportunity. Taking action to prevent and reduce food loss and waste offers a rare “triple win” for a business, institution or other organization, as it can lower economic costs by addressing operational inefficiencies, support efforts to combat food insecurity in communities, and reduce environmental impacts, including its carbon footprint.

To be successful in preventing and reducing food loss and waste, an organization or facility must first measure how much food is being lost or wasted within its boundaries. Measurement identifies the scale of the problem and the hotspots that most need to be addressed and allows for tracking progress over time. In short, what gets measured gets managed.

This practical guide walks readers through the steps for measuring food loss and waste (FLW). Treat it as a quick reference for assistance and look for internal links that allow you to quickly reach the material of most interest.

The checklist below shows seven steps to measuring FLW and the corresponding modules that address them in this guide. Use it to track progress and easily access the most appropriate module. Steps 1–6 are the same for all user types, while Step 7 offers sector-specific information applicable to measuring FLW at different stages of the food supply chain.

Step 1: Determine why you want to prevent and reduce FLW. (Module: Why Measure FLW?)

Step 2: Establish your case for preventing and reducing FLW. (Module: The Business Case for FLW Measurement, Prevention and Reduction)

Step 3: Prepare for the change of measuring, preventing and reducing FLW. (Module: Making the Change)

Step 4: Determine your definition of FLW. (Module: Setting Your Scope)

Step 5: Determine your causes of FLW and identify solutions. (Module: Determining Root Causes)

Step 6: Identify what will be measured to monitor progress over time. (Module: Selecting Key Performance Indicators and Identifying Impacts)

Step 7: Select and implement a FLW measurement method based on your sector. (Module: Sector-Specific Guidance)