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Two troublesome truths about food we can’t avoid
In a world where resources are stretched, they’re still too often wasted.
First, Earth’s resources are finite. A third of all land is already under the plough and agriculture is the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and the largest user of freshwater. Using more and more resources to grow food isn’t politically or ecologically feasible.
Second, tonnes and tonnes of perfectly edible food never gets eaten. Either it’s lost to poor logistics and inadequate storage, or it’s thrown away by consumers.
And this in a world where nearly a billion people still go to bed hungry every night. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Covid-19 pandemic could add a further 100 million people to this distressing toll. Nothing less than a transformation is needed.
Good food that doesn’t cost the earth
We’ve thought long and hard about what really makes a progressive food company. We believe food should be celebrated. And what excites us are the very real, very tangible benefits that food can bring, such as health, wellbeing, joy and friendship.
That’s why we’re inspiring people to cook delicious, nutritious meals from ingredients that are good for them and good for the planet. It’s why we’re increasing our plant-based food options to help people reduce their meat intake. And with 2 billion people affected by micronutrient deficiency, it’s why we’re fortifying more of our foods to increase their nutritional content.
Future Foods is our bold new set of commitments to help people transition towards healthier diets and reduce the environmental impact of the food chain. Because we believe everyone, everywhere should have access to good food that doesn’t cost the earth.
Looking beyond the farm gate
For a food system to be fully sustainable, it means looking beyond the farm gate as well – to the energy, water and other natural resources used when food is transported, stored, processed and consumed.
Agriculture, food, nutrition, health, livelihoods and the environment are all intimately interconnected. Focus on one without the others and the whole system collapses.
As one of the largest food companies in the world, we can’t afford for that to happen. In fact, the cost of inaction to business is far greater than the cost of action.
How can we fix the food system?
Our strategy and goals show how we’re contributing through our Future Foods ambitions, with commitments on positive nutrition, climate and nature, and combating food waste.
However, feeding the world is a global priority – and it needs to be tackled at a global level.
The UN Food Systems Summit in autumn 2021 brings together governments and key organisations from across the value chain to transform the food system. We’re supporting the development of a collective business statement of ambition to help drive progress at the summit.
We’re advocating on a number of fronts to lead for change. For example, we want to see reformulation targets in line with WHO guidelines for fats, sugar and salt, with incentives to create smaller portions to help people eat nutritious food and follow a healthy, balanced diet. Marketing to children under 12 is unacceptable and we want to see an end to it, to create a level playing field. And regulatory hurdles on the safe fortification of products with key micronutrients need to be removed.
Only by working together can we bring about change on the scale that’s needed.
A sustainable food system has to be the answer. And now has to be the time.Hanneke Faber, our President, Foods & Refreshment