These three organizations are working to reduce food waste in hotels

(Hotels have stepped up their attention to environmentally-friendly programs, and their efforts have attracted partners in high places.)

The World Wildlife Fund, with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, and the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 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.

According to the WWF, food production has the largest environmental footprint globally of any human activity, yet one-third of the world’s available food either spoils or gets thrown away. In the United States, 40 percent of food is wasted throughout the supply chain. The majority of that loss comes from homes and food service industries, including the hotel industry. Recognizing the industry-transforming potential of a food management strategy across all hotel food service operations, 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.

“With its substantial food service volume and broad reach with consumers, the hospitality industry is an ideal catalyst for accelerating change,” Pete Pearson, director of food waste at World Wildlife Fund, said in a statement. “Imagine every hotel breakfast buffet or conference luncheon eliminating food waste. While businesses should make food donation and landfill diversion a priority, these pilot projects will focus on food waste prevention, which is ultimately better for business and the environment.”

“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,” Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of AHLA, 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 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, seven-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.”

The WWF, AHLA and The Rockefeller Foundation plan to roll out additional activities for individual hotel properties to participate in and encourage the entire industry to follow. A toolkit that reports on key findings, best practices and next steps to tackle food waste in the hotel industry will be published. The objective of the initiative is that, in joining the fight against food waste, the hospitality sector can not only reduce its environmental footprint but also improve bottom lines and elevate the sustainable culture of the 21st century. 

“Considering the tremendous energy, water and habitat loss embedded in our food, loss and waste can no longer be accepted,” Pearson said. “The hotel industry is showing other sectors how we can move faster through improved analytics by focusing on prevention strategies. Food waste is a problem institutions can solve faster through collaboration.”