The past two decades have seen a growing emphasis on sustainable food production. Consumers, governments and companies are increasingly aware of the consequences of inaction and the magnitude of the challenges facing us. This has led to advances in sustainable agriculture in areas such as soil health, water and landscape management, as well as more sophisticated tools for monitoring progress along the way.
Since 1980, the inflation-adjusted global price of cocoa has halved, while the bar for sustainable farming has only grown in scope and ambition, as has the price of key agricultural inputs. How can these smallholders commit to an ever-evolving sustainability agenda when they lack the resources to make the necessary investments?
The structural inequities in commodity supply chains hinder our ability to achieve meaningful progress on the UN’s sustainable development agenda. Be it global poverty, climate change, environmental degradation or inequality and human rights – progress cannot be made unless the economic resilience and wellbeing of farmers is addressed first. Resilient farmers are the foundation of a resilient supply chain. This isn’t just about corporates being an agent of social change, but about companies realising this is a business imperative in today’s interconnected and dynamic global environment.
So, what will it take? All global food companies – from retailers and brands to processors and manufacturers – need to put the livelihoods of farmers at the forefront of their priorities. They must reshape their supply chains to be more inclusive and equitable, so that farmers can rely on more stable buying commitments with sustainability goals that are ambitious yet realistic. The costs of those sustainability investments should be shared with buyers, and the farmer’s commitment to sustainable agriculture should be rewarded with higher prices.
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Building the economic resilience of farmers also requires a combination of tools that certification can help provide. More accurate record-keeping as well as digital tools for risk and performance analysis work to improve the financial management of farms. This, combined with good agricultural practices to boost productivity, leads to more resilience and better livelihoods for farmers.
While certification can go a long way to improving the livelihoods of farmers and the sustainability of agricultural supply chains, it cannot solve the problem of farmers’ incomes alone. Corporate sustainability objectives and sourcing strategies need to be better aligned so that supply chains can move towards greater stability and long-term resilience. Moreover, policy-makers in producing and consuming countries, international donors, and civil society need to work jointly on agricultural development, community development, and farmer resilience. All these actors must work together to create a new paradigm for global business.
If we are to make good on our promise to eradicate global poverty, protect the planet, and improve the lives and prospects of people everywhere, then we have to address the structural inequities in global commodity supply chains. Tackling these issues head-on is a shared responsibility for all actors involved, but also an opportunity for leading global food companies to reap the benefits of more sustainable farming while shaping a brighter future for their sectors.
This content was originally published here.