At the same time garbage trucks full of food waste were headed to the landfill, the Oregon Food Bank was struggling to find sources of nutritious food. This was when Oregon had one of the nation’s highest rates of food insecurity.
As the solid waste agency studied the barriers to food donation for their "Fork It Over" food diversion program, they learned that businesses had many concerns.
· Will we be liable if someone becomes ill after eating this food?
· How will we ensure the food will stay in the safe zones (<40 degrees or >140 degrees) until it can be consumed?
· How much additional time and labor will my staff need to spend?
· Can someone come pick this up for us?
The most surprising point about this story has to do with the perceived benefits, though. When asked what motivated them to donate excess prepared foods, the staff at the restaurants and grocery stores did not say “avoided cost of disposal” or “tax write-off.” Those were attractive benefits Metro Portland had mentioned but not the businesses' main motivation. Most stated that they joined the program because “it’s the right thing to do.” Food service staff disliked throwing away whole pans of lasagna, platters of baked chicken and bowls of salad when they knew many people in the region did not have reliable access to affordable, nutritious food.
For those of us who work with businesses to implement energy efficiency, water conservation and waste prevention projects, it is interesting to hear that more than just operational cost savings motivate business leaders.
While cost-benefit analysis, net present value and internal rate of return calculations are valuable tools to sell a business on a sustainability project, other factors should be used when discussing the value proposition.
Author Bob Willard has done interesting research to calculate bottom-line benefits to businesses that implement sustainability projects. Employee recruitment, attrition and productivity factor into the calculus. So do market share and insurance costs.
For those who try to motivate business managers to implement sustainability projects, broaden the conversation beyond operational cost savings. Some of the benefits listed above may resonate with your target audience and inspire her/him to agree to implement your proposed sustainability project.