The more we implement circular economy the more we will transform and improve the world – for business, people and planet.
Bo H. Holmgreen is a highly successful Danish entrepreneur-come-philanthropist who has launched a monumental undertaking to reduce the world’s food waste – with Thailand and Indonesia as test beds.
While most people sit and say that someone ought to do something about this and that, that the government should solve certain problems etc. Founder and CEO Bo’s ‘Scholars of Sustenance’ non-profit food rescue foundation, SOS, launched in 2012, is an admirable example of walking the talk. The Dane experienced firsthand all the food waste taking place and got convinced that something had to be done. And this was very much relating also to his previous financial technology solution for banks, which was all about optimisation.
It is a fact that food waste is unavoidable. However, a lot food unnecessarily becomes waste, while many people are suffering from hunger and are depending on others’ support to survive.
100 million meals wasted
Bo had an eye-opening experience in Bangkok in 2012 as he was enjoying the canapés and wine in the club lounge of a Bangkok five-star hotel by the riverside.
“So I’m sitting there in the sky lounge and after they finish and carry out all the food –of which 97 per cent is untouched–I ask the butler: ‘What happens to this food, do you get to take it home?’ ‘No, Sir, then we would be cooking more and wasting more, so it goes into the trash’ was the reply.”
“I thought: ‘No way! While this goes into the trash I can sit here and look down at the people outside the gates of the hotel that would need this food.’ Then, suddenly I realised: Why am I optimising banks’ money? I need to optimise food for the needy the same way!’
“That gave me the idea how to set up SOS – which is all about the logistics and the concerns with food safety; where managers in hotels do not want to give the food to the poor because they could be sued and so on.”
Bo continues: “So I had to lift it safely out of one logistics system and then safely into another distribution system – where both systems cannot object to each other. And that is how SOS has been successful, so we now have about 100 hotels and some 25 supermarket branches and are growing dramatically.”
Since 2015, their Thai foundation has been pioneering their principles in Bangkok, followed by SOS Indonesia established in 2016, and also Phuket.
SOS has estimated that over 100 million meals that are being wasted every month in Southeast Asia could be redistributed to underprivileged people, so the opportunities for food rescue operations to grow is enormous.
“Right now we are focused on building a very healthy food rescue business where we get as much food as we possibly we can from the donors. And that can sometimes be challenging; where we have overcome objections such as: ‘No, we’re not going to give anything.’ or: ‘Maybe we’ll give you a little bread, but no protein because it’s too dangerous.’”
“Here in Southeast Asia SOS have to sign contracts with every donor–which we willingly do–that we take full responsibility for the food and we make it anonymous so it can never be traced back to the donor. In this way we’ve been operating for four years without one single incident,” explains Bo.
Replica from the banking world
But let us rewind to this thing about banks, which will explain where Bo is coming from.