A new report by the international nonprofit Business and Sustainable Development Commission highlights the financial advantages of taking a sustainable approach to food and agriculture. The group has sought to make a convincing argument to industries that environmentally friendly policies offer a long-term financial benefit, in addition to being good for the planet. The new, centerpiece report by the organization claims that taking such an approach to problems like world hunger food waste could generate 2.3 trillion dollars of business opportunities, and 80 million new jobs, by 2030. It indicates a sevenfold return on a yearly 320 billion-dollar investment. The conclusions come from an analysis of industry reports and academic literature.
The report’s standards for a “sustainable approach” reflect those of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, released last year as part of the plan to ensure food security around the world by 2030. The goals outline a number of shifts in food production and distribution, including the selection of produce with a reduced environmental impact, enacting sustainable farming practices, and a vast reduction of food waste among both producers and consumers. The author of the report, Fraser Thompson, argued that such changes are not merely idealism, but rather a practical approach to solving global problems.
“It is important to stress that our business opportunities are based on currently available technologies where there is an existing model in operation in some part of the world. We deliberately took this approach to ensure that the insights from the report were feasible for business,” he said.
Furthermore, the report says that 90 percent of the new jobs created by the plan would be in Asia and Africa, largely in developing countries, because of their large portion of arable land and predicted consumption growth, according to Thompson. However, the report suggested shifts in the US as well. These opportunities for growth are focused on the consumer side, including reduction of consumer food waste, offering healthier products, and reducing consumption of resource-intensive foods such as beef.
One example Thompson gives of an important new practice is that of London startup Winnow, who have set out to reduce food waste using a “smart meter” that uses cloud computing to allow chefs in commercial kitchens record and analyze what food ends up wasted. Chefs who take this information into account in their kitchens have been able to reduce waste by 50 percent or more.
Thompson says that the key is to scale up practices like the smart meter. This will require a significant initial investment for businesses, but Thompson and the commission argue it will pay off in the long run. He also emphasizes the urgency of taking action, with the UN warning that demand for food will grow as much as 60 percent by 2050.