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A UN-backed Initiative Aims To Improve Food Sustainability

The food that arrives on our plates often takes a long and winding journey to get there – and uses up a lot of energy on the way. Food accounts for more than one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to research cited on the Our World in Data website. Half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture, as is 70% of global freshwater withdrawals.

There is no quick or simple solution to this problem, but a step in the right direction is for the financial industry to take action toward more eco-friendly food production. That’s the goal of a new initiative by an UN-backed group of global financial institutions.

Photo Courtesy goodfood.finance

In the fall of 2022, the group unveiled a series of company-specific environmental and social targets aimed at moving toward a more sustainable food system.

The goals were set by 11 financial firms in the Good Food Finance Network, which describes itself as a “multi-stakeholder collaborative innovation platform” that works to develop innovations that will help put sustainable food system finance into the mainstream.

Participants in the new initiative include Dutch banking firm Rabobank, London-based investment management firm Nuveen Natural Capital, Mexican development lender FIRA, and the Global Environment Facility, a multilateral funder of biodiversity protection. The new goals cover objectives such as stopping deforestation and expanding the use of agroforestry. Targets were approved by the UN.

Video Courtesy World Business Council for Sustainable Development

“This new generation of high-ambition targets can enable a cleaner greener food and agriculture sector,” said Eric Usher, Head of the U.N. Environment Program Finance Initiative.

The group was established ahead of the COP27 global climate talks in Egypt, which took place in November. It also comes amid a movement by investors to find links between a sustainable food system and efforts to fight global warming and preserve biodiversity. Collectively, the group has about $113 billion in assets. 

“Identifying what a state-of-the-art, credible target to finance sustainable food and agriculture looks like is a vital part of addressing the urgent climate and food crises,” added Wiebe Draijer, co-chair of the Good Food Finance Network and former CEO from Rabobank. “Today’s new generation of high-ambition targets provide a significant step forward in meeting that challenge.”

Sustainability targets in the initiative vary by participant. Here’s a quick look at what some of them hope to accomplish:

  • Rabobank: Lock away 150 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually across its agricultural holdings by 2030.
  • FIRA: Increase the amount of money it invests in climate change to $3.6 billion by 2030, particularly in Mexico’s rural areas.
  • Global Environment Facility: Restore 420,000 hectares of degraded land and improve land management practices across over 20 million hectares.
  • Nuveen: Expand zero deforestation across its portfolio of roughly 3 million acres of land by the end of 2023, and complete a natural capital inventory of all properties.

The Good Food Finance Network brings a lot to the table regarding connections to the global sustainable food movement. The network is convene by the EAT FoundationFAIRR InitiativeFood Systems for the Futurethe United Nations Environment Program, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. It also closely collaborates with the World Bank, the UN Conference on Trade and DevelopmentS2G Ventures, and other partners.

Photo Courtesy EAT Foundation 

One of the network’s goals is to develop commitments from financial institutions, governments, and corporations to mobilize finance that can transform the world’s food systems. It also looks to drive action toward the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals by bringing together a diverse group of partners and strategies.

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