Transforming our food system for a sustainable future
Lars Holmquist, Executive Vice President, Sustainability & Communications, Tetra Pak
The United Nations is referring to the 2020s as the ‘Decade of Action’, and for good reason. As we all know, the impact of climate change is now becoming all too clear. From the growing frequency of natural disasters like flooding and wildfires to the unprecedented impact of the global pandemic, our planet is experiencing significant and, in some cases irreversible, change.
The global food system on which billions of people rely is not immune from the effects of our warming climate and this is why the United Nations recently convened its first ever Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) in September. Its aim was to secure agreement from world leaders on actions we must take to transform the way we produce and consume food and rebuild our global food system for a sustainable future.
The Summit could not have come at a better time. Its goal was to generate measurable progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), elevating public discussion about reforming our food systems to achieve the SDGs while developing principles to guide governments and other stakeholders.
To achieve the SDGs, everyone needs to first acknowledge their individual impact on the health of our planet, and their unique opportunity to contribute to positive change. At Tetra Pak, we’ve had a long history of developing innovative solutions in food processing and packaging. We believe that this experience also comes with a responsibility – to help build long-term solutions for secure and sustainable food systems, offering our learnings and expertise, and establishing partnerships to bring proposed ideas to reality.
As part of our work around the UNFSS, we developed, in conjunction with the ‘Food Systems Game Changer Labs’ organised by Rockefeller, Thought for Food, EAT and IDEO, a number of innovative ideas to transform food systems.
Our proposed solutions focus on food innovation for healthy diets, school feeding programs, minimising food loss and waste, sustainable dairy production, sustainable food packaging and supply chain transparency. Each of these ideas builds on our history in creating innovative solutions to various food systems challenges:
Creating a multi-stakeholder task force to explore different models and mechanisms, including unlocking the short-term benefits, to make school feeding programmes more financially viable and self-sustaining
Helping governments and food and beverage companies develop a playbook for reducing sugar, salt and fat content in foods while remaining cost-competitive
Developing an academy or a learning platform for smallholder farmers to share knowledge on effective farming practices, increasing yield, reducing loss and delivering food products to the markets quicker
Sharing Tetra Pak’s learnings from COVID-19 and other crisis situations to develop a live global supply chain model that tracks capacity across retailers and factories, to combat food scarcity and ensure supply chain continuity in times of crisis
Increasing access to dairy products by exploring how a transition towards sustainable dairy could be enabled, through access to improved technologies and long-term offtake contracts with processors that incentivise sustainable dairy practices
Minimising the environmental impact of packaging while ensuring food safety and enhanced food access, by developing processing and packaging solutions that can deliver on all these areas
While all these ideas are promising, as anyone who has worked in the food sector will tell you, transforming global food systems is no small undertaking. It will require long-term focus and system-wide collaboration from all stakeholders across the food value chain. We are looking forward to developing these further with partners and working with young talent to engage the next generation in turning these and other game-changing ideas into reality.
Food plays a fundamental role in the health, wellbeing and overall balance of the world. And the only way to achieve this balance is by taking a partnership approach, acknowledging the role we all play and working together to make progress.
The next important milestone in that process will be at the World Climate Summit (WCS), which will run in parallel to the wider COP26 programme.
At WCS, Tetra Pak is convening a panel of academics, industry leaders, and NGOs to discuss how we can transform our global food systems.
The event will begin with a keynote speech from leading climate scientist Johan Rockström, followed by a panel discussion with contributions from Lars Holmquist, CSO, Tetra Pak; Ashley Allen, CSO, Oatly; Annette Stube, Head of Sustainability, Stora Enso; and Sandrine Dixson-Declève, the Co-Chair of the Club of Rome.
The session will be chaired by Professor Dan Esty, Hillhouse Professor at Yale University and an environmental lawyer and policy maker.
If you’d like to find out more about our work on this agenda, I'd urge you to read the white paper that we have developed which sets out more detail on how food processing and packaging are critical to achieving food systems resilience. Find out more here: https://bit.ly/2WQpNlu