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Circular Food Economy: Canada's $50 Billion Opportunity

In this episode:

Currently, 60 per cent of the food produced in Canada is wasted – representing an extraordinary $50 billion in avoidable economic losses. This extreme level of waste coincides with a reality where six million Canadians live in food insecure households. In terms of environmental sustainability, food waste is a significant driver of greenhouse gas emissions due to the generation of methane in landfills and the energy and resources embodied in wasted materials. This systemic problem requires a system solution: the circular economy.

The circular economy is a new paradigm of production and consumption where materials never become waste and nature is regenerated. In a circular economy, products and materials are kept in circulation through processes like reuse, recycling, and composting. Canada is seeing the emergence of significant circular innovation in the food system, with ‘hot spots’ emerging in places like Montreal and Guelph, where networks of firms are connecting to ‘upcycle’ or utilize the bi-products of others.

In this episode produced in partnership with the Ivey Centre for Building Sustainable Value and moderated by Bryan Benjamin, Executive Director at The Ivey Academy, we’re joined by guests: Jury Gualandris, Associate Professor, Operations Management & Sustainability and Faculty Director, Ivey Centre for Building Sustainable Value; Denise Philippe, Senior Policy Advisor Metro Vancouver and National Zero Waste Council; and Julie Poitras Saulnier, CEO & Cofounder at LOOP Mission. In this session, our panelists explore emerging innovation for reducing, and ultimately eliminating, food waste and examine opportunities to increase the scale on practices that support the circular economy through finance and policy.

Other ways to listen:

Additional Resources:

Good to the last bite? Data-driven insights to reduce household food waste by Paul van der Werf, Jason A. Gilliland, Matthew Lynch, Carly MacArthur, and Lauren Turner (Report from Ivey Centre for Building Sustainable Value)

"Unchaining supply chains: Transformative leaps toward regenerating social–ecological systems" by Jury Gualandris et al. (Article in the Journal of Supply Chain Management)

Circular Waste Exchanges in Supply Chain Networks (Interactive Map)

The Future of Agri-food Series

The Future of Agri-food Event Series is convening key Canadian thought leaders to explore Canada’s role in the future of the agri-food system, and the key opportunities and challenges facing the sector. The series is jointly convened by the Ivey Centre for Building Sustainable Value (BSV Centre), Ivey Academy, and the Institute for Sustainable Finance. The primary goal is to build awareness in the key networks of the partners (executive leaders in business and finance) of key opportunities and challenges in agri-food for Canada, especially the critical issues associated with the transition towards net zero.

Episode Transcript:

DENISE PHILIPPE: If we have a circuit or solution that depends on waves coming from Nova Scotia but I'm making my product in DC, the climate impact of those kilometers travel to get the waste from one end of the country to me undermines a circular solution.

SEAN ACKLIN GRANT: Welcome to Leadership in Practice, your source for new research, insights, and practical advice on critical issues in business. Presented by the Ivey Academy. 60% of the food produced in Canada is wasted, representing an extraordinary $50 billion in avoidable economic losses every year at a time where six million Canadians live in food insecure households.

The circular economy, a new concept of production and consumption where materials never become waste, offers an innovative answer. For this episode, produced in collaboration with the Ivey Center For Building Sustainable Value, we're joined by three expert guests, Jury Gualandris, Associate Professor at Ivey Business School and Faculty Director of the Ivey Center For Building Sustainable Value.

Denise Philippe, Senior Policy Advisor for Metro Vancouver and the National Zero Waste Council. And Julie Poitras-Saulnier, CEO and Co-founder at Loop Mission. Together, our panel explores emerging innovations for reducing and ultimately eliminating food waste through a circular economy.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: My name is Bryan Benjamin. And I'm the Executive Director here with the Ivey Academy. The opportunity ahead of us is pretty vast and pretty broad. And I know our panelists are each going to share their individual areas of expertise, but I think there's going to be some good sort of lively discussion amongst our panelists as we get different perspectives on some of these key issues.

So I'm going to start with, really, the challenging side, which is what are some of the underlying failures that drive so much food waste right here in Canada and across the agrifood system? So I'm going to look to Denise and Julie who are going to get your voices into the conversation first.

DENISE PHILIPPE: So I'm going to start with a little bit of our social historical past. I think the fact that Canada is a colonial country, and we've been developed based on a resource extraction model, which is a company-- this a linear system that we have in play where we take, make, and waste the resources that we have. And that applies to food as well.

We also have a sense that our resources are abundant and limitless, so we don't have a sense of valuing those resources in terms of their scarcity. So I think that there's a bit of a historical mind frame that has brought us into today's reality. I think also we don't have a cultural connection to food. And this is not true for all communities in Canada but I would say that overwhelmingly, as a country, we don't have the same cultural connection to food that we see in other places in the world.

And I think that that cultural connection would help us generate an attachment and a value to food. But waste is cheap in Canada. We don't have significant tipping fees for businesses other than businesses like waste is just consider the cost of doing business. And even when presented with really solid business case to reduce waste, the time and cost to make changes within processing, manufacturing, distribution, et cetera, it's too much.

There's not enough investment dollars to make those changes and people are really struggling just to hit their bottom lines. There is policy and practice contributions to food loss and waste in Canada. We don't have blanket organics bans, so we still see communities in Canada that are pretty happy to toss their organics into landfills. We know that that's a problem and there are logistical problems associated with that, so we can talk about that later.

Canada is not known to be a country of investment. Investing in innovation is really important. And I know that Julie is going to talk a lot about that. I think that some of that commitment to invest in innovation is changing. There is not a harmonized approach to measuring, monitoring, even defining what we consider to be edible or inedible food.

We have a sense of how much we're wasting here in Canada, but we don't really have hard numbers and we also don't have hard numbers to tell us when we can do better, how to do better when we're successful in driving down waste.

I'm just going to say one last thing about best before date labels just because Too Good To Go has just moved into Canada. They've just launched yesterday their look, smell, taste campaign. This is a great move because we know that best before date labels are contributing to food loss waste in the country.

Again, I think this is part of a policy framework that contributes to food loss and waste unintentionally. So things like best before date labels are really intended to let people know when food is at its peak freshness, for example. A lot of people think of it as an expiry date and food is wasted there.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: Thank you for getting us going, Denise. And I got to tell you, just-- and I know you only touched on some of the aspects that we're tackling and dealing with, but I think that just speaks to the complexity of the challenge and how many different individuals we're going to need to be involved in actually moving this forward and finding solutions. Clearly, it's not a fix this and, boom, it's all great. Julie, let's hear your perspective.

JULIE POITRAS-SAULNIER: Yes, there is so many reasons, as Denise mentioned. It's really not one thing that creates food waste. And what we really see from the industry is, first, like there is a percentage of waste that is considered normal by every company, and we kind of accept, OK, you waste 2% of everything that you manage every year, and that's kind of like the reasonable amount of waste that everybody accepts and nobody questioned. Really. And this is a problem in itself.

But also the consumer's expectation, like we expect everything available all the time, and that creates a lot of waste. It's a lot of speculation, like, you don't know exactly what you're going to need at which moment. And because everything needs to be available all the time, you need to ensure you have full available all the time.

Because it's like having a restaurant, you don't exactly know how much you're going to sell every week but you don't want, at the end of the week, your consumers to have half of the menu available because maybe it's more sunny outside or it's rainy, people will eat more soup or salad. And it's really the commercial aspect of it that you want everything available all the time so you're going to have a little buffer on everything.

And it's the same all across the industry. You need this little buffer on everything because you don't want to miss an ingredient, because you don't want to lose sales. It's, really, the commercial aspect of it that is really a problem and just the fact that we expect the things available and we need that as the commercialization aspect of it creates a lot of waste. And also pickiness, we need everything available, everything looks good.

Like the aspect of all the fruits and vegetables are also so important. And the fact that food comes from so far. Like in Canada, we don't grow much of our food so things can happen in transportation. One of the example we have a lot is citrus. It's a citrus come from Egypt or Spain, and they come in boats. Sometimes it's more humid in the boat so it creates little brown dots on the side on the outside of the citrus. And because of that, consumers don't want it.

But the reality is that food that comes in boat, when there is humidity, creates these little dots. So the visual aspect of the fruit we have, the commercialization, we need the standardization. The food needs to fit in a certain container, so you need to cut half of your celery because it needs to fit in the bag and it needs to be in the proper shape to fit in the container. So all of this creates waste, of course.

And I want to bring back the commercial aspect of it because Denise mentioned the best before date, and that's important but it's not just like a regulation aspect of it, it's because every brand wants their product to look the best. It's the same with our juices. We know that there is the microbiological, like, you send your food to the lab and you know if it's bad for your elder, it's not, but is there microorganism developing in your product? But there is the organoleptic aspect of it.

So 99% of these best before date, it's because of the organoleptic. You want the color to be bright, you want the bread to be fresh, so all of these aspects are like the one-- the number one reason why brands put the best before date is not based on, really, the analysis in the lab. It's really based on the organoleptic of what you're going to sell because at the end of the day, you want consumers to love your brand, and for that you need the product to be fresh, to look good. So that's one of the main reasons.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: Thank you both for starting us off, I think, with some very relatable examples. And I'm thinking about when I've picked something up and looked at a best before date versus thinking about it as peak date where you've looked at a piece of fruit and he's like, maybe not for me, when it's perfectly fine.

So I appreciate that because I think this is something that impacts all of us and we're going to need all of us to find a productive way forward. So, Jury, let's get you into the conversation here. So the consequences, ecological, social, food waste, what are some of the consequences of some of these behaviors or actions, and in some cases, inactions?

JURY GUALANDRIS: I think from an ecological perspective, we need to consider that the waste sector in Canada accounts for about 4% to 7% of total GHG emissions for the country. And for food specifically, this is about seven to 14 megatons of Co2 emissions a year which, just to give you an example, is the equivalent of about 3,000 cars driving around for about $20,000 a year.

And this is just for the food waste that we create upstream in our value chain, production, processing, and distribution. Not to mention the soil that we use and exploit to create that food that goes wasted, not to mention water. We currently use 25% of fresh water resources for food production.

And if 58% of our food gets eventually wasted, either through surplus like abundance of inventory that doesn't get to be eaten, or byproducts such as bones and skins, we are basically wasting about half of that fresh water.

This is on the negative side. On the positive side, our research shows that there are many ways to valorize food waste. So we have analyzed about five different pathways to valorize food waste from going to food waste to human consumption.

For example, we like to drink beers. Well, for every liter of beer that we drink, approximately one kilogram of spent grains get produced. And usually they go, who knows where. If you were to collect dry and process those grains into powders that are highly rich in fibers and proteins, and substitute those powders with powders that would come from alternative and virgin production processes-- traditional growing, harvesting, processing of corn and other crops-- you would remove about 25% of the GHG emissions associated with the virgin production.

To say this differently, if we take that waste and valorize it through a properly designed operational process, we can generate the same level of fibers and proteins at a much lower carbon footprint than the virgin production. This is one pathway. We also studied other pathways through animal feeding, so feeding these grains and other materials to cattles and pigs and insects as well, which then can produce frass that can go into urban agricultural application.

There can also be pathways related to mushroom growing, also yet another source of nutrients. They can go back to the field and through composting processes, they can generate green energy through anaerobic digestion. And the last resort is, of course, landfilling, which there might be ways also to manage it to capture some of the gases and the methane that get produced through that process as well. So we have several pathways on average, if well-designed. Each one of these pathways can result in substantial reduction of GHG emissions and water consumption.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: And thank you for sharing both sides of the coin and giving us some hope in terms of where the opportunities are and where we can go. And I appreciate your beer example on a day-- at least in London, it's a really hot day today, so I think that's probably resonating with many people. Julie, I'd love for you to share a little bit more on Loop's mission and what you spotted as the business opportunity, what you've created, and maybe a little bit about where you hope to go next.

JULIE POITRAS-SAULNIER: Yeah, sure. So we started the project seven years ago, and at the beginning it was actually very scary because at the time nobody did that. And everybody said it was not a good idea to do that. Nobody really believed in the model and I quit everything. I was kind of scared. Like no more job, I sold my house, everything was up in the air. And was like, OK, did I-- is it the biggest mistake of my life?

Because, first, we thought we had limited growth. Like, are we going to be limited at some point with food available out there and then we're not going to be able to grow? And in the marketing aspect of it, everybody was like, you can do that, but don't talk about it. Do that on the background but don't say it because every marketing product, the marketing has always been about how premium the ingredient it is. That nobody will ever want to drink a juice that you say is made out of food waste.

And also the product category, everybody was like, don't do juices. It's a saturated market. And the last one was like, don't start a business with the guy you just met and fell in love with. And we met this, like [INAUDIBLE] this most important producer distributor in Canada. We visited his warehouse. And that's how we decided to quit everything. And we realized what we thought were our weaknesses were actually our biggest strength.

And I think it's the reason why Loop worked is for all of these reasons, first, we're never going to be limited because there is so much food available out there. We visited that warehouse, and we started with one distributor. But we got so many media coverage that people started to call us from all around the world.

Like we got access to all the data of food that is wasted from the major multinationals out there. They called us saying, we throw food, can you help us? Because we realized that it was an issue that nobody addressed before and that the companies didn't want to talk about it, really.

And so it was the first time that they opened their book and they say, OK, look what I throw out, help me do something about it. So we realized that we're never going to be able to do it all on our own. We're going to need more companies to do a similar business model. That's how we got to Loop Synergies, it's also to create that movement to have more companies because we're never going to be enough for this massive issue.

And the marketing also was like, we decided to take a leap of faith and believe that consumers now are smart enough to understand what is really wasted, and that some food that is still very good for consumption is wasted. And we decided to talk about it and to really educate consumers about the issue of food waste. And to be part of if they don't know it, it's one of our mission to educate about it. So we took that leap of faith and because of that, consumers started to do the marketing for us.

We didn't have to invest in PR agencies and paid ads, we just had to do good and do good things. And because of that, people were more eager to talk about it, to share on social media. So the marketing went without even having to spend on marketing. So that really also showed that consumers are ready for it and that we just need to create these connections between organizations to make it work.

The last point of it is, really, when you have the right people that compliment each other, that creates the perfect match, and everything together created the loop. So we went from being Loop with only cold pressed juices made with discarded fruits and vegetables, to be a Loop mission because there were so many opportunities out there that when we created beers made with the old bread gin, made with discarded potatoes from a chips manufacturer, and so on.

Like soaps and ice teas, probiotics, so that's because we have access to so much food. So that's basically how we all started. And now we realize that, yeah, not, less than always what people say, just when you want to create something new and really change the world, you need to do something that probably nobody did before because everybody was scared of it. But sometimes it works when you try.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: Denise, Jury, I'd love to hear your perspectives on what is this example show us for other potential initiatives, as well as partnerships and collaborations that we might be able to either see forming or hope for in the future.

DENISE PHILIPPE: I want to talk about the hope for in the future. I mean, I think, Julie, you are exceptional in the way that you embraced not just innovation, but risk, really. Your story at the beginning was great. You sold your house and you began this journey with someone you just met. I love that part of the story. It's like a romance.

But I think it's a lot for us to expect that all businesses take that same level of risk. We need better collaboration and better support for businesses that are doing this work. There are multiple ways that we can do this.

We do need to change how we procure items. So Julie mentioned that people were first resistant to citrus fruits with spots on it or-- this is an important piece for institutions and government agencies and other businesses who are procuring items. We need to shift what we procure and how we procure, so we leave room for a multitude of food products.

But we also need to ideally work with institutions and other large scale agencies who can provide investment dollars in support of that procurement, but also support in-- support innovation. So the collaborations that I'm hoping to see in the future are going to be not just the collaborations, as Julie was talking about in terms of businesses-- which is phenomenal-- but how do we build collaborations across sectors.

Because it's not just about taking a business risk, it's how do we also set policy and-- particularly procurement policy that enables businesses to do the work of being innovative without so much risk. And Julie, I think that probably would have been a little easier for you at the beginning if that was in play.

So having those relationships with other levels of government where we are using our policies to signal how important this work is, but to also make it a little easier, reduce the risk a little bit for businesses that are wanting to innovate.

The other thing I just wanted to flag, I mean, Julie, you already talked about it, about how you're developing relationships with different kinds of businesses than would be typical. And people have told you, don't do this. And here you've done it and you've been super successful. And I think it's because you were disrupting the status quo system and you were developing relationships with businesses that people hadn't really thought about before.

How do you build a relationship with a business who's got waste so that you can take that waste and make it a resource input? That is a different kind of relationship that we haven't really seen before. And we need more of those if we're going to move from a linear to a circular system to make sure that our waste actually is seen as a resource.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: Jury, over to you.

JURY GUALANDRIS: So I want to share a little bit of the short history behind this panel. When Julie started her business seven years ago, that was the time that I moved from Europe-- specifically at the time Ireland. Before that I was in France and before that in Italy, I'm Italian-- I moved to Canada. And I was already researching sustainable and circular supply chains. But I was amazed by the amount of waste, food waste that we were producing in the country.

And I started to develop a research program that over time would assess both the causes and the consequences and the solutions for this problem. And at the time, I collaborated deeply with the smart city office in Guelph. They just received federal funding to establish the first circular agrifood system in Canada.

And I was also looking for other examples around the country, and I landed on both Guelph and the Wellington County System, as well as the Montreal Metropolitan System where Julie was actually developing her business. And then I continued to track and catalog every waste-- food waste exchange that was happening within these two provinces.

In the chat, I shared that GIS map that summarizes some of the exchanges that we have tracked and assessed over time. We are talking about more than 200 exchanges in the past five years of one company producing some form of food waste that is picked up and used productively by another company.

And, of course, this 200 have different degree of success. Some are very successful, some are less from an ecological perspective as well as an economic perspective. And we looked at that variance. So Julie is a great leader, and is part, actually, of a network of about 80 entrepreneurs that collaborate and compete with different solutions of food waste.

And there were a couple of features that I want to share with everybody that characterize how these entrepreneurs went about building this network. Julie already pointed to it, but I want to emphasize the importance of a mindset change.

I'm a professor in a business school, and we teach how to develop new businesses, finance them, build a supply chain and operational system around them. And very often we propose rapid growth processes that are focused on specialization and scaling mechanisms.

And Julie already mentioned that one important feature of her business at the beginning is that they were not sure how much they could scale because they were naturally constrained by the type of food waste that they will be able to identify and process.

So a mindset shift that is typical of this businesses relative to traditional businesses is that they don't focus and start from the end market and the needs of that market, but, rather, they start from what is nature for our industrial system making us available today. What are the resources that are wasted?

Because in their mind, waste is not defined as something that is valueless, but is defined as a valuable resource that is in the wrong place at the wrong time, in the wrong conditions and need to be processed and put in the right conditions for it to be consumed.

So as rich from a demand oriented logic to a supply oriented logic, these are the resources that I have. What can I do that have value out of it? Rather than this is a market need that I see, how do I fulfill it? They started from the supplier rather than from the demand.

And then in growing their business, they were naturally constrained by the type of food waste that were typical of Montreal. And what I've seen is that if they think about replicating their business, they will have, in relative terms to what traditional business, a harder time to scale and replicate their business because they need to be embedded in their city.

They need to know where the waste come from, at what time, in what conditions, what processes are best. And that level of understanding is very difficult to replicate in another city. Let's say they move tomorrow to Toronto or to California, those two systems will have very different dynamics than Montreal, and, therefore, will make it for a different organizational approach than what they developed in Montreal.

In this context, one mindset shift is around supply orientation against demand orientation, as opposed to demand orientation. And the other mindset shift is about scaling deep into their community and the industrial system rather than scaling wide to reach national and international markets from the get go. So I think that's what I wanted to share in terms of the story that I've been part of.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: How do we affect change in some of these larger companies, dairy meat industries that have significant influence on the best before date? People are grabbing on to that best before date. Has anything happened? What are some of the things that we could do to get them on board? From what I'm hearing is part of it is education and positioning as well. Denise, I see you grabbed the baton there so let's hear your thoughts on this.

DENISE PHILIPPE: The process of changing large companies is always tricky. So a couple of things. First of all, we have best before date guidelines with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. So some of those guidelines are there, and I think some of the problems are with those guidelines.

There was a food label modernization effort done a few years ago. The result of that effort, however, meant that there were more best before date labels that could be put on more products. And I think that large companies-- and if there's any large company here, please, feel free to tell me to task on this one-- but I think those best before date labels can be used to move product.

So it's an issue around food loss and waste, particularly at the consumer level, but also at the processing level. How we apply those dates is also an issue, and I'll talk about that in a moment. But I think using those dates to move product is a problem because it means that we don't want to shift the practice at a retail level.

Those best before dates, there's not a lot of guidance around who applies them and how do we determine what is an appropriate date. So, for example, it's not just big grocery stores, but it's also the little shops, it's also large chains, Starbucks and all the other kinds of coffee service providers, for example, that sell those lunch packs.

It'll sometimes be a barista who's applying a best before date as things are reassembled at the back kitchen at a coffee shop. And the date that gets applied is kind of like, scratch your head, test the wind, OK, well, we should sell this by tomorrow kind of thing. That's the best before date.

So how it's applied is not appropriate. There's not enough guidance at the policy level to better understand when it should be applied, who should be applying it, how do we determine what that date is, for example. The other piece is making sure that people understand what the language means.

This is certainly some work that the National Service Council has done. We've asked the government of Canada to shift the wording so we don't call it best before date, let's just call it what it is. It's peak freshness so people understand that this is just the point at which it is-- it's going to taste as freshest, but it doesn't mean that it tastes bad after that date.

Say, what we mean is also really important. Provided education around those best before dates for consumers, but also for businesses through our love food hate waste Canada campaign. It hasn't been the main thrust of that campaign. When Too Good To Go announced that they were moving into Canada, we've become the ambassador. So you're going to see more communications from the National Zero Waste Council around that best before date piece. They're collaborating with those big businesses.

So I have to double check. I don't know whether Kellogg's has signed on, but there are something like 80 plus brands Too Good To Go has partnered with. And what they're doing is they're putting a look see taste label next to that best before date so that we're not able at this point to change the wording on the date. And if we can't do that, it's like, OK, we're going to ask consumers to trust their senses. And big business has come on board to support that. So that's great.

Is it a change within the big business? I'm not sure if it's a change in how they're applying those dates, but it is a change in what they're allowing to be a label to sit next to a best before date that provides education and awareness to consumers, but also to processors that are using their ingredients.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: What are some of the key features of the circular food system? If you could sort of hit on some of the ones that you think are most relevant for our conversation and for education purposes.

JULIE POITRAS-SAULNIER: On my side, the way I really see it is that we need to create organization the way we create ecosystems. It's really the connection between the fact that an ecosystem, the concept of voice doesn't exist, so it shouldn't exist in our own organizations and the way we manage things.

The concept of voice doesn't exist why? Because everything is connected. Every organism is connected together so that the waste from one becomes the food for the other ones. And that's really the way we need to connect our businesses and we need to partner up.

We don't like everybody does like its business in silo, and doesn't necessarily share about what they threw out. But just by connecting businesses together so that the waste from one become the raw material, the ingredients for the other one, just by changing that it creates a whole new concept. And like there is so much food that is really amazing, actually, but is wasted because we just don't know what's wasted.

And just for a business like us, to know what's wasted, it's kind of complicated. We get so many phone calls from people that want to replicate the model but they're like, nobody wants to share, nobody wants to talk about their waste. It's kind of there is a taboo and nobody wants to really say what they throw out.

But just by sharing that, it's really important because that's the way we can create because Jury mentioned the most important is to start with the problem, not start with the product. And for me this is the concept of creating circular economy in the food industry is really to start what we waste because that's the way we build our recipes. We didn't say I want a raspberry juice, no. I'm looking at what's wasted in huge quantities are your [INAUDIBLE] and this is what I'm going to put as number one ingredients in my product.

So we need to know what's available out there, what's wasted. For me, it's a circular economy. It's really to create value without extracting a new resources from the Earth. And that the only way to make it work is by partnering up.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: I like the challenge I heard in there. While it may feel a bit, I'm keeping it close because I don't want to share because maybe I'm doing something wrong, but if I do share, someone else might be able to help and make use of it. And we can all kind of educate and move forward. There's lots of comments around this duality that we see as food waste and at the same time, food insecurity and more what can be done to make more matches happen within our own country.

Jury, I'm going to bring you back into the conversation here around some of the shifts that are going to be required in the organization and operation of the agrifood system. So I think this can build on some of the conversation that we've had so far is, what would you like to see as some share-- maybe some of them are happening, maybe some are more aspirational but what are you hoping for here?

JURY GUALANDRIS: I would like to acknowledge that there is a lot happening at the grassroot level. There are many companies with very creative ideas. I saw before a question about can we import some of the practices that are happening elsewhere? I can tell you they're already happening within the country, but at a scale that is not sufficient yet.

The question is, how can we scale those activities that are replacing virgin production that is unnecessary and exploitative? So if I frame the question around how can we help those that are already doing innovative things to accelerate the transformation process for the broader system, I have three somehow provocative thoughts.

On the consumer side, we need to slow down. We need to engage with the food that we buy. We need to understand where it comes from, what is the history of that food. Is there any upcycle, recycle component into that food? How can we make the best out of it?

It is true that we are increasingly busy, we have business careers, but we need to rethink how we approach life in general. In Italy and in Europe there is a very successful movement that you can look up. It's called Slow Food. So slowing down at the rhythm that characterizes nature.

There are specific growth processes. We are wired around cycles of growth and development. So we need to recognize that we need to engage back with our ecological systems, where the food comes from, and how it contributes to our body.

In AI, nowadays we keep talking about garbage in, garbage out, that applies to our body as well. Second, for actors along the chain, it is mind blowing. We are basically moving from a nicely sketched out linear system to an interconnected maze. And I don't know many of you how they feel when they learn something, but my ears become red and I need to drink water and I need to calm down. I've been experiencing that in the past six months as I started a new hobby drumming.

My suggestion for those companies is-- and I'm embedding all of these suggestions in a new accelerated MBA course and executive course that I'm offering through Ivey-- is on the procurement side, think about what is the percentage of products that you buy and offer that contain recycled or upcycled content. And of the products that you are putting on the shelf or producing for others, how much of it can be recycled and upcycle at the end of the life? Obviously, food gets consumed, but what about packaging?

And not all the food will get consumed in the same way that we hope it will be consumed so what could be some of the implications? So upstream, looking at what we buy and try to increase the amount of materials that are regenerative and recycled. And on the demand side, sell material that can be regenerative or can be recycled by others.

The final one is for government. These players that I'm referring to have very high barriers in terms of accessing food waste. Where is it? Where do I go get it? If we have such sophisticated waste management system that as soon as we create waste, it's off our mind, it's outside our purview. And so if they want to do something with it, where do they go? Where is it?

So access, process, how do we turn it into something valuable? So once we found it, how do we transform it? And third, market, how is it going to compete against virgin materials? So those are the three key barriers that the government need to work to alleviate if they want to see more organizations such as the one that Julie is leading. How can they do that is through creating a more incentives for visualizing waste sources and reporting on waste sourcing.

The second one would be price externalities of virgin production. Create the path of least resistance for corporates. If we are not going to make companies pay for the waste that they create, those that create more waste relative to those that create less waste will be always at a competitive advantage, and I would say unfair competitive advantage. So those are the three things that I believe government should be doing.

JULIE POITRAS-SAULNIER: I really think what Juri saying is really important because this is what we see. Like, for example, PET plastic, like with our bottles, the Virgin plastic is less expensive than the recycled plastic. So it's a companies actually have to pay more because of these externalities that are not included in the virgin one. So we need to create that choice, I'm going to keep my bottle more expensive to have it recycled or have the virgin that looks better, that is like completely transparent not grayish, but it's less expensive.

And it's the same for fruits and vegetables. One of the issue is that most of the food that is wasted that we use as a retail level, like with the distributor, is wasted-- it's not even composted because it's prepackaged. We don't receive bulk of blueberries in a huge bin, we receive little clamshell of blueberries in little containers, in cardboard, in pallets.

So we receive truckloads of that. And because of that we need to open them manually and recycle the plastic, recycle the cardboard and upcycle the blueberries that we're going to put in our juice or the strawberries. But these things that we save or we have a value, but it creates also a lot of labor so it's really more expensive.

So it's really hard for us to be competitive because of this extra labor that is required to really transform the food that is wasted because it's already all prepackaged. We have to unwrap like cucumbers that are in a little shrink wrap. And this is something that everybody that use number one ingredient that is designed to transformation, don't have all these externalities included in their prices. And because of that, we're in disadvantage. And so it's really hard to make it work.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: Denise, a turn to you.

DENISE PHILIPPE: Yeah, Julie and Jury brought up great points. I just want to build on some of them. I think there is a need for some sort of resource exchange networks where we can identify where is the waste that we can take advantage of and how does it come to us in a way that is efficient and cost effective so we're not spending all that time deep packaging, for example.

So supporting those resource exchanges locally would be really, really key. I am thinking, for example, also of Metro Vancouver's relationship with Food Mesh. Food Mesh is a food recovery organization that actually has a network where they're connecting with businesses who have extra food, and then they are finding either charitable outlets for that food or they have a B2B marketplace where they're reselling that food.

So, Julie, if you were here in Vancouver, you would be able to work with Food Mesh to find more resources, for example, to purchase them, but also to have them donated to you. And then Food Mesh takes an edible food that they can't find a market for and they provide it to farms so it can go to feed animals. So they're acting as a broker in that network.

And Metro Vancouver has secured a contract with Food Mesh through a procurement process, but it's supporting that kind of networked effort to manage resources and surplus food. But I also just want to come back to some of the key question around what are the elements of a circular economy. And one thing that we don't talk enough about, I think, is the importance of re localizing our systems.

I don't want to go fully local. This is not about the 100 mile diet or something like that, but we do need to think about how do we localize our supply chains so that communities can build resiliency. We need to access waste that is close to us. For waste to be an input resource, ideally, it's close to home.

If we have a circuit or solution that depends on waste coming from Nova Scotia but I'm making my product in DC, the climate impact of those kilometers travel to get the waste from one end of the country to me undermines a circular solution.

We do need in our vast country to think about how do we localize supply chains so that we're driving down the kilometers traveled in the production of products from farm to plate. So climate change action is a key element of an effective circular system.

The work that we've been doing in Nova Scotia where we were looking at supporting the evolution of circular food hubs-- and when I say a circular food hub, I'm just talking about clusters of circular solutions. So they're not siloed. How do we get people to collaborate and work with each other to make use of each other's waste? For example.

We invited Nova Scotia to identify what would be the key elements of circular food hubs for them. Investment in innovation, better partnerships, including partnerships with institutions, regenerative farming practices and food security, these were examples of their vision for what a circular food system would look like for their province.

I don't want to say that circular systems are going to solve food insecurity. We already see that we produce a lot of food in Canada, and almost 60% of it is wasted between the farmer and the consumer. So do we have enough food to feed people? Yeah. Is it getting to people who need it? No.

And that's a waste problem, but it's also a distribution problem. It's also how do we empower our communities to think about how do they extend the shelf life of food, for example, how do we give them the tools to manage food in a way that is cost effective, how do we plan for it in our households. There's multiple things that are linked to that.

However, I do think that the more we can localize our solutions, the more we can help people identify where their food comes, how to make best use of it, how to can and freeze it, ensure that it has a long shelf life. All those things help build our ability for people to access food in a way that's affordable.

So I'm just going to make a plug for that co-location of activities. And I think that that speaks to some of Jury's comments around the importance of place and it certainly speaks to Julie's comments around finding waste and building trust, because I don't think trust happens when we are too disparate and disconnected.

We build trust by getting to know the people that we work with. And when I hear from the city of Richmond that their effort to build a circular food system in the city of Richmond, what they're finding is that that trust factor is critical. It helps them identify where waste is happening, how much of it, and people being able to trust that we're going to come together with a solution that works for all of us.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: Thank you for emphasizing trust. We know trust takes time, it takes effort. Hearing the impacts of what happens as a result, hopefully, is motivation to lean in and put forward that effort. We got to move to rapid fire, closing comments. So 30 seconds each, one take away, one aha, one challenge, what would it be?

DENISE PHILIPPE: OK, so it's not one, it's three. So, one, think circular. Two, think about who you can collaborate. That means not cooperate but collaborate with. So you're jointly setting goals and objectives and an action plan, so collaboration.

A third is we need to invest in innovation and we need to find that investment in time, policy, and money. And the National Zero Waste Council is hosting a session on Tuesday next week where we're featuring three businesses that have gone circular in Nova Scotia. And they're going to share their stories about the challenges that they faced and what they found works. So join us next Tuesday. Registration is on our website.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: Amazing, 30 seconds, three comments, and a plug. Well done. OK, Julie.

JULIE POITRAS-SAULNIER: You actually stole my idea, which is innovation. I really want to-- it's so important to support innovation because in circular economy there is so many uncertainties. So many times we had really great ideas of products that we could develop out of waste and that nobody wanted to fund, like the research behind it. And that was the main barrier of doing the project that could be so amazing, and there is no funding out there for that.

So this is the one I wanted to emphasis on. And also just remember that we want to change multinationals and big companies, but we sometimes forget our consumers as big power. Because all of these companies, they look at what consumers want.

They do consumers panel like all the best before everything. At the end of the day, it's all for consumers. So we don't think we have an impact, but we have such a big impact because if upcycling food is what consumers want, this is what big companies are going to offer. So they offer what people buy.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: That's empowering. I like it. Now, Jury, your 30 seconds.

JURY GUALANDRIS: As a supply chain scholar, I need to highlight that our production systems develop when there is a demand signal. If there is a strong demand signal, then things happen upstream. Even Julie that had an idea to focus on certain food waste, if there wasn't a final market asking for some of the products that come out of that food waste, she wouldn't be able to succeed. My suggestion to both corporations and individuals is think more carefully about what they buy and where it comes from and what recycle or recyclable content they have in their products.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: Jury, Julie, Denise, thank you for your expertise, your thoughtfulness, your practical and relatable examples, and for some challenges at a macro policy level, at a supply and value chain level, at a corporation level, and at a personal level.

SEAN ACKLIN GRANT: Thank you for tuning in to Leadership in Practice. We'd like to thank our guests Denise Philippe, Julie Poitras-Saulnier, and Jury Gualandris. Leadership in Practice is produced by Joanna Shepherd, Rachel Jackson, and me, Sean Acklin Grant. Editing and audio mix by Carol Eugene Park.

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