Week of 13 December 2021
Food processing companies that are serious about making the necessary transformational changes to their businesses to align with the SDGs now have a roadmap
Our key takeaway: The world food system is in crisis, and we are entering a new era of food system sustainability. There are 21 steps food processing companies can take to be part of the major food transformation ahead.
The Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI) and UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN SDSN) released the Handbook for SDG-Aligned Food Companies: Four Pillar Framework Standards:
- “The world food system is in crisis”: the report points to five categories of issues. First, unhealthy diets – with “[a]round half of the world today … on unhealthy diets, including outright hunger, micronutrient deficiencies, and unbalanced diets leading to diabetes and other metabolic diet-related diseases.” Second, food losses and wastes, with around “one-third of agricultural output … lost to post-harvest losses and consumer wastes”. Third, unsustainable food production, with food production that “is environmentally unsustainable, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, land degradation, loss of biodiversity, chemical pollution (from fertilizers and pesticides), invasive species, freshwater depletion, soil loss, and other environmental harms.” Fourth, poverty in farm communities, with a “significant proportion of farm families in low-income countries suffer[ing] from extreme poverty and lack of access to healthcare, education, safe drinking water and sanitation, electricity, safe cooking fuels, and digital services.” And fifth, vulnerability of food systems to future shocks, with food production “increasingly vulnerable to human-induced climate change and its myriad consequences: heatwaves, storms, floods, droughts, pest infestations, and others, yet the world also requires major increases in the production of certain foodstuffs, especially fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, and some others.”
- “A new era of food system sustainability”: The report argues that “food companies will be required to raise their awareness of food system needs and their own roles in achieving food system sustainability. At the UN Food Systems Summit in September 2021, we saw participation from hundreds of food companies, demonstrating their recognition of the magnitude of this crisis and that they must be part of the solution.” This report establishes the standards and guidelines that food companies can use to be part of “the major transformations ahead.”
- Four pillars for food processing companies: The report outlines 21 commitments for food companies to take, within four pillars: beneficial products, sustainable operations, sustainable value chains, and good corporate citizenship. Pillar 1 (beneficial products) focuses on healthy and sustainable dietary patterns and “covers producing more healthy and sustainable food products, marketing and labeling products in ways that promote health and do not exploit existing vulnerabilities, and avoiding activities that contribute to food insecurity.” Pillar 2 (sustainable operations) is about “preventing, mitigating, and remedying the environmental and social impacts of food processing companies’ own business operations on their workers, communities, and ecosystems.” Pillar 3 (sustainable value chains) is about “the company’s role in and responsibility to drive sustainable development for workers, producers, and communities across its entire value chain – upstream and downstream – and in the broader ecosystems of which it is part.” And pillar 4 (good corporate citizenship) is about “how companies are governed and how they impact entire societies by engaging with the systems and rules that govern them.”
For more, see Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI) and UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN SDSN), Handbook for SDG-Aligned Food Companies: Four Pillar Framework Standards (December 2021)