Thinking

Three critical areas for food system collaboration

Collaboration across every industry and department in the food system is essential for a sustainable future, but what areas are critical for successful coordination?

Three-critical-areas-for-food-system-collaboration-featured-image-Clarasys

The global food system is in constant flux. Responding to changing consumer trends, expansion of the global middle class, changing trade environments or insecurity in crop-growing nations has become the norm. However, the biggest influence on the global food system is already and will continue to be the climate and environmental crisis. 

The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation released a report last year that highlighted the costs to the food system from climate change including estimations that natural disasters cost agricultural sectors over $108bn between 2008 and 2018. The increased risk of agricultural production loss, followed by floods, storms, pests and diseases, and wildfires will scale these costs dramatically.

The system itself is a major contributor to the climate and environmental crisis producing 37% of all Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and 1.3 billion tonnes of food waste each year. Moreover, 52% of farmland has degraded soil quality due to intensive agriculture. All of this while one-third of people do not get the required vitamins within their diet and two billion are classed as overweight. It is clear that the system needs to change both in response and to be part of the solution to these existential challenges. 

Change to any system requires coordination, if you adapt the gearbox of a car it can impact the performance in other areas unless you make necessary adjustments in other areas of the car. It is the same in the food system, if we want to create a lower waste, lower emission system then there needs to be coordination across policymakers, finance providers, food producers, and manufacturers. This article highlights three areas critical for food system collaboration. 

  1. Nailing the outputs

Systems are all about inputs, processing and outputs. The key to a changed food system is agreeing on the outputs before redesigning the inputs and processes. A shared commitment to what the system will work to produce, and what is important in how it is produced is vital. Within the context of the environmental and ecological crisis that means moving to a food system that is regenerative, circular and as low-emission as possible. Moving to this system requires investment simply because historically these systems have been designed with outputs focused on cost, quality and commercial factors. Nailing the commitment to a reimagined system then enables the collective design of the inputs and the processing elements of the system to deliver them. 

  1. Assessing the collective risk

We are already seeing disruption to global food systems from the climate crisis. It is impacting crop growth, access to manufacturing materials and disrupting transportation pathways. Understanding the level of risk that your operations and supply chain will face over the coming years enables more effective intervention planning. To develop the models and scenarios through which you can assess your firm’s risk, platforms such as Cervest utilise the latest climate data and projections to demonstrate the impact that there is likely to be in different areas of the world. Will you need to move a manufacturing facility or change your product design or commercial model because of risks? Working through these with suppliers enables open conversation around the risks and potential opportunities to mitigate these risks. 

  1. Reimagining what is possible

Innovation is critical to reimagining the global food system. We need new products, methods of production, transportation and models of consumption. A collaborative exploration of the areas that require innovation enables the sharing of risk and increased economies of scale. Collaboration across policy and industry is also necessary to work at the pace that is required through setting a regulatory and commercial environment that will stimulate innovation in the right areas.

At Clarasys, one of our fundamental values is collaboration - we know we are better when we work together. We think that for a food system that is secure and fit for purpose it is time for collaboration. 

To find out how our sustainability consulting can help you, get in touch.

Author

Meet the author.