One of the world's largest nonprofit conservation funders just pumped $90 million into a new sustainable supply chain initiative, kicking off a collaborative effort that could potentially result in a major shift in global food production. The new initiative, backed by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, will focus specifically on "decoupling" food production from an unsustainable track in the seafood, cattle and soy sectors.
The unsustainability of the current food production pathway is clearly evident if you look at the numbers compiled by the Moore Foundation:
"Transforming practices in these markets will require an unprecedented degree of cross-sector collaboration among nonprofits, business, governments and other stakeholders."
Beef has been a sustainability target for years, as has seafood production, but the inclusion of soy on that list seems a little surprising. However, the global "soy footprint" is a matter of concern for deforestation and other impacts that are typically associated with beef and other high-protein food production systems.
The new effort will support three Moore initiatives called Forests and Agriculture Markets, Conservation and Financial Markets, and Oceans and Seafood Markets.
The collaborators include Ceres, FishWise, Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, National Wildlife Federation, New Venture Fund, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, the Nature Conservancy, World Business Council for Sustainable Development and World Wildlife Fund.
The grant money will leverage the areas of expertise for each collaborator to accelerate the pace of changes that are already under way.
One area of focus involves scaling up more efficient ways to produce beef and soy without massive deforestation, particularly in key areas such as the Cerrado and Chaco regions of the Amazon. Funding will also go to improve both aquaculture and natural fishing practices.
From the finance end, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development will partner with Moore and the World Wildlife Fund to enlist "mainstream financial markets" in the effort to nudge commercial food production in the right direction, partly by advocating for disclosure of the impacts of unsustainable practices.
In the U.S., for example, the business sector is practically falling over itself to purchase clean power at a record-setting pace, thanks in part to the Business Renewables Center of the Rocky Mountain Institute.
A similar dynamic could come into play for food production, as sustainable solutions begin to yield bottom-line results for major commercial producers and their customers.
Image (screenshot): via Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.