European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

Programme Category


Article available in the following languages:


Evidence-based decision-making to change social norms towards zero food waste


Food loss and waste has negative impacts on society, the environment and the economy: it contributes to food insecurity and hinders nutrition; generates greenhouse gas emissions and creates pressure on land and water, including deforestation, degradation of natural habitats and biodiversity loss; it is also responsible for great economic losses. Such negative impacts are exacerbated in times of crisis (e.g. COVID-19), when food supply‑chain disruptions generate additional food losses and wastes.

Reducing the amount of food intended for human consumption that is eventually lost or wasted represents a complex challenge, as it involves changing established business practices and people’s habits, while guaranteeing the safety of food. As demonstrated by UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2021[[]] , food is wasted mainly towards the end of the supply chain (particularly at consumption level, in households and food services). Here, consumer behaviour and the lack of awareness and coordination between actors in the supply chain play a key role. An additional issue directly linked with loss and waste is the amount of packaging that is eventually discarded with – or without – the food.

Successful proposals are expected to address two complementary areas:

Area A:

Developing a comprehensive evidence-based analysis of food loss and waste prevention actions, with the overall aim of informing decision-making. In particular, this should involve an impact assessment and cost-benefit analysis of existing food waste prevention actions in the EU and its associated countries, and of their economic, environmental and social impacts. This should include developing a database of actions and tools for preventing and reducing food waste and loss, which will help inform future interventions by different stakeholders and promote replicability across countries.

The development of sector-specific guidance sharing the key success factors, barriers and data for an effective prevention and reduction of food losses and waste is also recommended.

Area B:

Supporting research (i.e. development of an evidence base) and innovation (with a special focus on open and social innovation) on existing social norms responsible for food waste, so as to foster appropriate changes in consumer behaviour and business practices (e.g. marketing standards, retail and trade practices, restaurant portion sizes).

This will involve gathering new evidence on the feasibility of innovations that are tailored to specific contexts.

On consumer behaviour, the investigation should include analysis of current trends and correlations as regards:

  • Food waste and convenience food (i.e. ready to eat);
  • Food waste at household level and food services (i.e. eating out/take away);
  • Food waste, obesity and malnutrition;
  • Food waste and crisis response policies (e.g. case of COVID-19).

As regards food businesses, this activity should support innovative and/or improved business practices in large companies and SMEs that:

  • Effectively signal the value of food, so as to reduce food waste;
  • Redesign portion sizes to reduce food waste;
  • Operationalize food waste reduction and prevention though internal corporate policies and business strategies with supply chain actors.

The expected behavioural change should also be supported by new or specifically adapted technologies in both of the following areas: date marking and sustainable and smart food packaging.

Successful proposals should build on the work of the Commission’s Joint Research Centre in support of the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste, and be in line with the Commission’s environmental footprint method[[JRC - Assessment of food waste prevention actions. Development of an evaluation framework to assess the performance of food waste prevention actions]], [[Calculator for impacts of food waste prevention actions]], especially as regards to the life-cycle assessment.

Successful proposals should deliver on food waste reduction and prevention across the food system. They should explain how they will deliver co-benefits to the Food 2030 priorities (nutrition for sustainable healthy diets, climate and environment, circularity and resource efficiency, and innovation and empowerment of communities).

The required multi-actor approach (see eligibility conditions) will be implemented by conducting inter- and trans-disciplinary research and involving a wide range of food system actors, with special attention to consumers and civil society organisations.

Proposals should develop compelling communication products, potentially two-way communication activities for each relevant food system actor and an innovative science education package for schools. They are encouraged to build on past or ongoing EU-funded research and collaborate with relevant initiatives, including the Commission’s Platform for Food Losses and Waste. They should set out a clear plan on how they will cluster with other proposals selected under this and any other relevant topic, e.g. by participating in joint activities, workshops, and common communication and dissemination activities.

Social innovation is recommended when the solution is at the socio-technical interface and requires social change, new social practices, social ownership or market uptake.

Proposals should address inequalities, be they due to gender, race or other social categories. This topic should involve the effective contribution of SSH disciplines.