Time for supermarkets to play their part in reducing food waste

Research conducted by organizational scientist Christine Moser shows that supermarket managers have a lot of autonomy in reducing food waste. “Unfortunately, managers are often caught between a rock and a hard place due to conflicting goals.”

12/03/2019 | 4:52 PM

Every year, between 1.7 and 2.5 million tonnes of food is wasted in the Netherlands. Reason for Moser to conduct a study on this topic. She argues for increasing awareness for this form of wastefulness. “I still find it mindboggling that people have no problem throwing away up to one third of the food they purchase.”

As an organizational scientist, in her research Moser focused mainly on the role organizations play in food wastage. She hopes that people will become more aware of the behaviour that is at the root of this problem and that they will end up throwing away less food. “It’s in your hands. But more importantly, organizations have an important role to play because our entire food chain, including waste, is organized “through and through”. It is often thought that changing this system is impossible and that we have to accept food wastage as a part of life. I think we could do better: there’s no reason why we can’t reduce food wastage, as long as we recognize that there is a problem and that it is urgent. My mission is therefore to create an overview of the current organization of food wastage and to look for ways to improve this organization.”

The study shows, for example, that supermarket managers have a lot of autonomy in reducing food waste. But they are often caught between a rock and a hard place: they have to achieve conflicting goals, such as selling freshly-baked bread until closing time, while throwing away less bread - which is an impossible task if baking continues until the supermarket closes.  Lots of managers are motivated to put in the extra effort required to achieve less wastage. There are loads of initiatives and partnerships that ensure a better distribution of food that is still edible but can no longer be sold in supermarkets.”

Christine Moser’s research will continue for some time. The first results have already been published and have raised new questions that must be answered. For more information, see https://research.vu.nl/en/persons/christine-moser.