Short essay - sustainability challenges for the food industry

A short essay from Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership's course "Business Sustainability Management", working to a case study of a meat production company.

 

What are the top three global sustainability challenges for your industry at large (food)?

1) Global hunger

1 in 9 people or 815 million globally are undernourished [1]; with an additional 2bn expected by 2050 [2] and a 60% increase in food supply required to feed this predicted world population [3]. The challenge and opportunity for business moving forward will not only be how to match this demand, but also to deliver solutions to lessen risk of loss and improve productivity, improving food security and output [4].

The parallel issue of poverty limits the market opportunity, so both need to be solved in order for business to realise this.

2) Food Waste

Whilst people who need food are not getting it, food that is not getting consumed is heating up the planet [5].

20-30 percent of food is wasted [6], generating 4.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year - reducing food waste can reduce 70.53 Gigatons of equivalent carbon dioxide by 2050, the third-biggest lever [7].

Food waste ranks as the biggest market opportunity for food and agriculture relating to the Global Goals, valued at $685bn [8]; being present at all stages in the global value chain [9].

This is significant for GMF who can realise resource efficiencies; meeting of stakeholder needs and expectations; and innovations addressing the issue that can create new forms of value.

3) Animal Agriculture

Animal agriculture contributes up to 50% of global GHG emissions; significantly more than plants, as well as using more water, energy and land; and requiring feed to maintain [10].

A move to a plant rich diet is the fourth biggest lever to impact climate change (66.11 Gigatons of co2) [11], ranking as one of the largest market opportunities related to the Global Goals, as part of a $12tn total opportunity [12].

Substitutes for animal products are gaining market share in many markets [13], and business will look to develop such products to meet this growing consumer demand.

The challenge for companies such as GMF, could be to completely rethink their purpose, business models and products, moving from a ‘meat’ to ‘protein rich food’ company to remain competitive.

 

Value chain & plastics

Rising to standards set by their customers and driving improvements further down the supply chain will be another key challenge for GMF. There is an increased focus on packaging by stakeholders, in particular plastics, and GMF can collaborate with their entire value chain to reduce packaging and identify alternative materials to plastics for circularity.

 

 

1 – United Nations (2016), “Sustainable Development Goals – Hunger” Retrieved from http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/hunger/ (Accessed 6 March 2018)

2 – United Nations (2016), “Zero Hunger, Why It Matters”

3 – United Nations Global Compact (2017) “Project Breakthrough – Disruptive Technologies Executive Briefs – Digital Agriculture”, PA Knowledge Ltd.

4 - United Nations Global Compact (2017) “Project Breakthrough – Disruptive Technologies Executive Briefs – Digital Agriculture”, PA Knowledge Ltd

5 – Hawken, Paul (2017), “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed To Reverse Global Warming”, Penguin.

6 – Business & Sustainable Development Commission (2017), “Better Business, Better World”, Creative Commons License

7 - Business & Sustainable Development Commission (2017), “Better Business, Better World”, Creative Commons License

8 - Business & Sustainable Development Commission (2017), “Better Business, Better World”, Creative Commons License

9 - Hawken, Paul (2017), “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed To Reverse Global Warming”, Penguin.

10  - Hawken, Paul (2017), “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed To Reverse Global Warming”, Penguin.

11 - Hawken, Paul (2017), “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed To Reverse Global Warming”, Penguin.

12 - Business & Sustainable Development Commission (2017), “Better Business, Better World”, Creative Commons License

13 – Generation Investment Management (2017), “Sustainability Trends Report”,  Generation Investmnet Management LLP