About the FLW Standard
What does the FLW Standard help me do?
The FLW Standard gives you:
- A common language to define what you mean by “food loss and waste” (also referred to as the scope)
- A short list of requirements to consistently and transparently account for and report clearly your food loss and waste inventory (the figures, scope, and methodology)
- Guidance to think about your choices when selecting what and how to measure
What’s the benefit of using the FLW Standard?
Using the FLW Standard:
- Gives you insights into how much food is not being used for its intended purpose: to feed people. It can also give you insight into how much material is considered the inedible parts of food (e.g., bones, pits, rinds).
- Identifies the destinations of your lost or wasted food (i.e., where it goes if not feeding people). This helps you understand where the opportunities lie to better utilize and valorize food as well as its associated inedible parts.
- Provides you with a clear and globally credible way to track food loss and waste. You can use this information both internally to inform your decisions or externally to share with others how much is generated. It also gives you the information you need to dig deeper into the causes of food loss and waste, identify hot spots, and prioritize the areas for targeted action.
Who can use the FLW Standard?
The FLW Standard is voluntary and designed for users of all types and sizes, across all economic sectors, and in any country. It is intended for use by any entity (government, business, industry associations, inter-governmental organizations, and others) that wants to quantify and/or report the amount of food loss and waste generated.
Why should I measure food loss and waste?
Many countries, companies, and others currently are unaware of how much, why, and where food and/or associated inedible parts are removed from the food supply chain. This makes it difficult to develop strategies and prioritize actions for preventing food loss and waste, and for identifying the most productive use of the lost or wasted food that does arise.
In short, it is challenging to manage what you do not measure. Moreover, what is considered “food loss and waste” can vary widely between countries and industries, and without a consistent set of definitions or an accounting and reporting framework, it is difficult to compare data over time and draw useful insight.
The FLW Standard addresses these challenges by providing accounting and reporting requirements that can be used consistently by companies, governments and others around the world. It also includes universally applicable definitions for describing the components of “food loss and waste” included in an inventory.
Learn more about why to measure food loss and waste.
Who is using the FLW Standard?
The FLW Protocol is not tracking the many users of the FLW Standard, but we are highlighting some through case studies.
Use of the FLW Standard is at the foundation of several significant initiatives focused on measuring and reducing food loss and waste. These include The Consumer Good Forum’s Food Waste Resolution, US Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions, and EU-FUSIONS Quantification Manual.
Defining Food Loss and Waste
Does the FLW Standard prescribe a particular definition for “food loss and waste” (FLW)?
No. The FLW Standard does not establish a universal definition for food loss and waste because different organizations will have different reasons for quantifying lost or wasted food. These different goals lead to (or government regulations may even explicitly state) different definitions of what constitutes lost or wasted food.
Instead, the FLW Standard provides a common set of terms for entities to define what they include when referring to food loss and waste, or any similar term. The two “material types” that may be included in a food loss and waste inventory are “food” and/or the associated “inedible parts” of food. The possible “destinations” describe where the material goes when it is removed from the food supply chain (e.g., to one or more of 10 destinations). It is up to an entity to describe which destinations are included in its scope.
How does the FLW Standard define “food”? How does it define “inedible parts”?
Users of the FLW Standard may choose whether to quantify both food and associated inedible parts, just food, or just associated inedible parts.
In the FLW Standard, food is defined as any substance—whether processed, semi-processed, or raw—that is intended for human consumption. “Food” includes drink, and any substance that has been used in the manufacture, preparation, or treatment of “food.” See the full definition here.
The FLW Standard also provides a definition for inedible parts, which refers to components associated with a food that, in a particular food supply chain, are not intended to be consumed by humans. Examples of inedible food parts could include bones, rinds, and pits/stones. Click here for the full definition.
What are the different destinations I can use to describe “loss and waste”?
There is a range of possible destinations for food and/or associated inedible parts removed from the food supply chain. These destinations differ significantly. Some result in final disposal (such as landfill), while others result in outputs with value (such as energy generation or a new product). The 10 possible destinations are listed here, in alphabetical order, along with their definitions. Section 6.5 of the FLW Standard provides additional guidance related to selecting and describing the destinations.
Does the FLW Standard apply to food rescued and secondary markets for food?
Given that the FLW Standard is focused on material no longer in the food supply chain, food that is transferred from one part of the food supply chain to another but is still used for human consumption is outside the scope of the FLW Standard.
In order to meet its particular goals, an entity may nonetheless choose to quantify and report the amount of safe and wholesome food rescued to feed people. However, users of the FLW Standard shall keep data about food rescued separate from their FLW inventory results.
Given the importance of food rescue as a channel for food still fit for human consumption (also referred to as food recovery, redistribution, or donation), Appendix E of the FLW Standard includes related guidance on quantifying and reporting the weight of rescued food.
When food and associated inedible parts at food banks or charities are removed from the food supply chain (i.e., not ultimately consumed by people), these entities should use the FLW Standard to account and record the amount of food loss and waste.
How to Implement the FLW Standard
How do I get started?
The simplest way to start using the FLW Standard is by reading the short Executive Summary, which lays out the key definitions and requirements.
Next, turn to the full FLW Standard for tips and guidance. You can use the detailed Table of Contents on page 2 to find what’s most relevant to you.
If it’s guidance on quantification methods you need, download the chapters that apply to your situation. If you’re not sure which methods may best suit your situation, check out our FLW quantification method ranking tool.
We’ve also developed tools to help you describe the scope of your FLW inventory and report your FLW inventory.
What requirements do I need to meet to be in conformance with the FLW Standard?
The requirements of the FLW Standard are available here, on the last page of the Executive Summary, as well as in Chapter 4 of the FLW Standard.
Where can I get help using the FLW Standard?
On the Trainings page you can download slides and recordings of webinars we’ve given, and see what else we have planned.
Several guidance documents are available on the Tools & Resources page to walk you through the various steps involved in quantifying food loss and waste. Feel free to also contact us directly with any questions or input at email@example.com.
How to Measure and Report a Food Loss and Waste Inventory
How do I measure food loss and waste?
Chapter 7 of the FLW Standard is designed to help you decide how to quantify food loss and waste. The FLW Standard does not require that you use a particular quantification method because the quantification method(s) you choose will be influenced by your particular goals, the scope selected for your food loss and waste inventory, the human and financial resources available, and whether you have direct access to the physical lost or wasted food.
However, in order to help you select the most appropriate method(s) under different scenarios, an FLW Quantification Method Ranking Tool is available. Moreover, a companion document, Guidance on FLW Quantification Methods, provides detailed guidance regarding 10 quantification methods that are commonly used to quantify lost or wasted food.
What if I want to express the weight of food loss and waste in other terms (e.g., environmental impact, nutritional content, or financial implications)?
The FLW Standard requires food loss and waste to be reported in terms of weight. However, if you’re looking to describe and convey the scale and relevance of lost or wasted food to your audience in additional terms, see Appendix C and Appendix D of the FLW Standard.
Appendix C provides guidance on dividing the weight of food loss and waste by a “normalization factor” to generate a metric, such as food loss and waste per capita or per turnover. Appendix D provides general tips, examples, and resources to convey the environmental impacts, nutritional content, or financial implications of lost or wasted food.
How do I report my food loss and waste inventory?
A sample inventory reporting template is available, but users of the FLW Standard may report the results in whatever format is most useful to the intended audience.
Chapter 13 of the FLW Standard provides guidance on reporting your food loss and waste inventory. In Table 13.2, you’ll see a summary of the elements to include when reporting on food loss and waste that are in conformance with the requirements of the FLW Standard. In addition to required information, an entity should consider also reporting on other elements that meet the needs of its particular audience; these recommended elements are discussed in Chapter 13.
How do I verify my food loss and waste inventory?
While assurance processes are not a requirement of the FLW Standard, obtaining assurance of your food loss and waste inventory can provide a variety of benefits. Chapter 12 provides guidance on assurance processes that can be conducted either by the reporting entity or by an external third party.
The FLW Protocol itself does not assure conformance of a food loss and waste inventory to the FLW Standard.
How does the Standard take into account related issues like the weight of packaging or water added (e.g., during cleaning)?
The definition of food loss and waste does not include packaging such as boxes, wrapping, or plastic containers.
However, in many situations, food loss and waste that requires quantification will still be in its packaging (e.g., yogurt in its container), will be mixed with packaging (e.g., food scraps and wrapping mixed together in a collection container), or data relating to food loss and waste will include the weight of the packaging. Section 6.7 and section 8.3 of the FLW Standard provides guidance on excluding the weight of packaging from the amount of lost and wasted food.
With respect to water that is added (or if the intrinsic water weight of an item is reduced), users of the FLW Standard are required to report the weight of food loss and waste that reflects the state in which the food loss and waste was generated before water was added (or before the intrinsic water weight was reduced). Section 6.7 of the FLW Standard provides guidance on this as does the Guidance on FLW Quantification Methods (see Section 3.2 and Appendix A).