Evaluation of Framework for Action pilots: Synthesis of food waste reduction pilot projects across four EU countries

Andrew Boulding, Rachel Devine

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REFRESH is an EU H2020 funded research project, running from July 2015 to June 2019, which aims to bring together stakeholders from all stages of the food supply chain and lead them closer towards the goal of reducing food loss and waste. One aspect of the REFRESH project aimed to design and pilot food waste voluntary agreements (VAs) across EU member states and subsequently assess their potential for wider adoption. In the context of REFRESH, a piloted VA is described as a “Framework for Action” (FA).Between August 2016 and October 2018, four countries across Europe piloted FAs: Netherlands, Spain, Germany and Hungary. These countries established their FAs following five key success factors, determined using the most successful agreements already in place at the time. The factors focused on: initiating and setting up the alliance, governance and funding, recruiting signatories, establishing actions and monitoring and evaluation. Following these factors, the FAs:

- Established a core group of key food waste stakeholders
- Established an FA approach to deliver actions
- Recruited wider food waste signatories
- Attempted to quantify their food waste situation (baseline)
- Undertook pilot projects to reduce food waste in their country

The main objectives of FA pilots were to establish evidence fora pan-European FA and enable action in keys parts of the food supply chain,so organisations across Europe make a significant contribution towards Sustainable Development Goal 12.3.

The FAs were evaluated to assess whether they had been successful, show their potential impact and finally highlight the circumstances in which they are likely to be more successful if replicated. The initial evaluation approach adopted was a mixed-method approach. However, evaluation later became predominantly qualitative in nature, due to significant barriers in obtaining food waste tonnage data.This also resulted in FA impact focusing on several short-medium term success indicators rather than measured reductions in food waste.

The success indicators were assessed using two process evaluations, undertaken a year apart,which gathered feedback from the participating organisations. In addition, case studies of both the FAs and their food waste reduction pilot projects were used to highlight the potential impact of FAs.

Evaluation highlighted that a pan-European FA would likely be very difficult to implement, due to variations in the socio-economic and political situations of different countries across the EU. However, the five key success factors highlighted at early stages of the project appeared sufficiently flexible for countries to establish FAs based on their own individual context. Furthermore, evaluation highlighted that each FA had its own successes and challenges. Although, a common issue across the countries revolved around difficulties with FA monitoring and evaluation, notably obtaining food waste measurement data from participating organisations.

Despite challenges, evaluation feedback from FA members, across all countries, was mostly positive. FA Members felt that they benefited or received value from their involvement in REFRESH. It was therefore expected that food waste reduction outcomes are likely to have been improved through FA participation. However, due to a lack of food waste measurements and counterfactual, the true impact remains unknown. Moreover, the true success of the REFRESH FA pilots will ultimately be determined by their long-term impact on levels of food waste, which will rely on improved monitoring and high levels of participation from all stakeholders involved.

To conclude, the evaluation of REFRESH WP2 highlighted FAs have the potential to:

- facilitate collaboration between different stakeholders across the food supply chain
- offer a flexible approach to tackling food waste, which can be increasingly important in countries looking for alternatives to legislative measures to encourage food waste reduction
- highlight shared lessons learnt and best practice approaches, to ensure organisations and future FAs choose the right actions necessary to deliver change

Through the REFRESH Blueprint future countries can consider the conditions necessary for the successful establishment of their own FA.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEvaluation of Framework for Action pilots
Publication statusUnpublished - Jun 2019

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