There’s Big Money in Sustainable Food and Agriculture Investments

fieldThere is money to be made by investing in sustainable business models for food and agriculture, according to a new report.

The industry could create $2.3 trillion a year for companies with an annual investment of $320 billion in sustainable business models by 2030. That represents a seven-fold return on investment and could create over 80 million jobs, a new report from the Business and Sustainable Development Commission (BSDC) reveals.

The report, released on World Food Day, is titled analyzes the “SDG prize in food and agriculture.” Launched in 2015, the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030 seek to end global problems like poverty, hunger and inequality and tackle urgent problems like climate change.

The BSDC was established in 2016 to both articulate and quantify a compelling business case for the private sector to help meet the 17 SDGs. Prior to the SDGs, there were the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), created in 2000. They consisted of eight development goals to end poverty and hunger, and promote education, health and gender equality by 2015. Businesses did not focus on them. But the SDGs are “different” in that they “have a truly global focus and are far broader than the MDGs,” the BSDC wrote in its report.

The research shows “the potential for the private sector to unlock tremendous growth through sustainable business models,” Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, chair of the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, told Triple Pundit.

What happens if business chose to not engage with the SDGs? The report presents two “undesirable consequences.” One is that the cost of global burdens will only increase, resulting in “less stable and equitable societies, an irreversibly damaged environment and poorer governance.” Governments will then be forced to use strong regulation “to attempt to avert the worst impacts of the challenges we face.” In short, the world just can’t afford for business to ignore the SDGs.

The private sector has a tremendous opportunity to engage with the SDGs. But a “step-change in the prevailing private-sector mindset” is required for businesses to significantly contribute, Malloch-Brown said. While the prevailing mindset “champions the short-term,” what is needed is “a new kind of leadership based on an entirely new understanding of the relationship between business and society, and that is: the belief that the well-being of one is dependent on the other.”

Dozens of targets comprise each of the 17 goals that make up the SDGs. In the food system, the private sector “can play a crucial role in more than a quarter of the 169 SDG targets,” the latest BSDC report finds.

Companies have opportunities to make a difference within the food system in both developed and developing countries. Although the poorest people in the world spend up to 60 percent of their income on food, calorie deficiency and malnourishment still continue because people either can’t access or afford enough of the right types of food.

For example, people in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have deficits of 300 to 500 kilocalories a day. The report suggests that consumer goods companies can help address this gap through investments in supply chains and food innovation to make food available that is both more nutritious and accessible. An additional 800 million people could “emerge as consumers with incomes capable of addressing their food needs” if the SDG target of ending extreme poverty is met.

Food waste is a huge global problem, particularly in developed countries. A third of the fruits and vegetables purchased by consumers in North America and Oceania is wasted, while only 5 percent is wasted in sub-Saharan Africa. One of the SDG goals is to cut consumer food waste in half. And according to the BSDC report, that represents an opportunity of about $175 billion a year, a figure that could increase to $220 billion by 2030 if food demand continues to increase at historical levels. Food companies can employ a number of technologies and business models to reduce consumer food waste, including packaging solutions to avoid spoilage.

Image credit: Flickr/StateofIsrael

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Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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