Unearthing the value of sustainable agriculture

The beauty of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is the interdependence and reciprocity of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) . Progress against a goal generates progress for all.

Nowhere are these links more evident than in SDG 2 on Zero Hunger. Addressing the results of the SDG 2 on food, nutrition and land use will help to make progress across all 17 goals – from the top down. improving gender equality health at climate change.

Fighting Poverty: Studies have shown that for every 10% increase in agricultural yields, there was a 7% reduction in poverty in Africa and a reduction of more than 5% in Asia. Increasing yields also improves farmers' livelihoods, reduces inequities and boosts education levels.

And research has shown that these yield increases do not need to cost the earth. The incorporation of sustainable agricultural practices such as the efficiency of water use and soil management can improve yields while maintaining essential environmental services. A win-win for people and the planet.

Yet the reality remains that our current food and agricultural system is not geared to the goal. The mismatch between production and consumption has fueled the double burden of persistent malnutrition and increasing obesity. And commodity-driven deforestation accelerates climate change, which in turn affects agricultural production. The disruption of weather caused by climate change threatens rural communities and the challenge of feeding growing populations to increasingly degraded lands is increasingly critical.

As producers, manufacturers, and retailers of most of the world's foods, companies have a responsibility to contribute to the transformation of the food system needed to achieve SDG 2.

Many companies are already taking steps – bringing skills in digital innovation, research and development to solve food and agricultural problems – and, in turn, securing their own channels of innovation. supply and open up new markets.

But Jason Clay, WWF US, warns: "No company, no government or organization is big enough to move the sector by themselves." We believe that a new independent coalition of public and private stakeholders able to combine leadership and technical depth is urgently needed.

That is why Unilever is proud to be a founding member of the Coalition for Food and Land Use (FOLU) in order to contribute to this ambitious task. Informally launched at the EAT forum in Stockholm in June, FOLU brings together an alliance of progressive companies, policy makers, foundations, investors, academics, international organizations and members of civil society to act as a driver of transformative change.

Guided by credible scientific goals, FOLU will develop pathways to address key environmental and social challenges that will unlock new sustainable nutrition models that generate growth opportunities while respecting global boundaries.

The objectives will guide the scaling up of specific business solutions such as reducing food waste, identifying alternative animal proteins and increasing crop diversification. These solutions will be applied in-depth countries (by undertaking an in-depth country analysis) to enable the right policy environment and public-private partnerships to ensure sustained action. Initial confirmed deep dives include Colombia and Ethiopia.

The moral imperatives of delivering progress against Zero Hunger are clear. But now more than ever, we also understand the enormous economic opportunities. As the Business Commission for Sustainable Development has shown, a global food and agriculture system in line with SDG 2 would create a new economic value of more than $ 2 trillion by 2030, while developing greater resilience to climate risks. The business case for collective action is both urgent and undeniable.

As we have seen in the climate movement, the private sector has joined forces to successfully meet ambitions and help reduce the risks of the political process. As co-chair, my vision is for FOLU to do the same for food and land use systems. We understand the value of partnership and collaboration and its importance in delivering systemic change. The SDGs have given us a framework for action. It is time to deliver it now.

Paul Polman SDG Advocate and the director general of Unilever.

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