A new report by the World Economic Forum, Incentivizing Food Systems Transformation, highlights the role of incentives to shift the behaviour of the 7.7 billion people who produce and consume food, through four pathways – at the policy, business, investment and consumer levels – and presents a roadmap for change.
Today, one in five children suffers from stunting and two in five adults are overweight. Current unsustainable agricultural practices could lead to the degradation of 95% of world’s land. Meanwhile, food loss and waste cost the global economy almost $940 billion annually.
Reducing these environmental and health costs requires a shift in how food is produced. This includes the practices of over 500 million smallholder farmers and the consumption patterns of the global population.
Several transitions – including to a healthier diet, sustainable supply chains, inclusive livelihoods and efficient production systems – are needed to transform food systems to meet the needs of people and planet. The right set of incentives can overcome challenges preventing stakeholders from making a shift, as well as fund ongoing economic costs.
The new analysis illustrates how the four incentive pathways can reduce agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by around 30% of projected global agricultural emissions by 2050 – equivalent to more than five times the annual emissions of all aircraft combined. The report also estimates that, if all the available GHG-efficient production practices were implemented at full scale, the global food system could see cost savings of more than $50 billion annually.
The four pathways are interconnected, and realigning incentives will need calculated trade-offs between the numerous diverse-yet-connected outcomes in food systems along with customization based on local contexts. The report provides a roadmap with five action areas for the global community to mobilize stakeholders for a decade of action to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The report, produced in collaboration with McKinsey & Company, is part of the Food Systems Initiative under the Platform for Global Public Goods of the World Economic Forum, which is mobilizing and supporting the individual, institutional and network-level leadership required to shape the future of food systems.
Over the past decade, the initiative has established a common agenda and platform that now enable more than 700 organizations to collaborate and learn, resulting in multistakeholder partnership initiatives in more than 25 countries.
“As the world prepares for the important milestone of the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021, it is our hope that this incentives report will inspire more stakeholders to take action to develop a collective leadership agenda on food systems,” said Dominic Waughray, Managing Director and Head of the Platform for Global Public Goods at the World Economic Forum.
“We urgently need to change the way we produce and consume food so we can feed everyone in the world while raising incomes, improving health and nutrition, and protecting the planet. This report highlights four pathways for transforming food systems – at the policy, business, investment and consumer levels – recognizing the need for solutions tailored to country contexts. It is a welcome contribution as countries and their partners work to shift global and local food landscapes toward better development outcomes”, said Laura Tuck, Vice-President of Sustainable Development at the World Bank.
“The impact of agriculture on climate change cannot be overstated – it’s both a key contributor and a promising solution. This report highlights some of the novel approaches that will be needed to ensure that agriculture takes a leading role in tackling this most complex risk facing society today, particularly in the areas of finance and risk management,” said Alison Martin, Chief Executive Officer, Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Bank Distribution, Zurich Insurance Group.
“We need to urgently change how we produce, process and consume food today. There is a historic opportunity to transform agri-food systems, which are essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The UN will convene the Food Systems Summit in 2021 to galvanize a collective leadership agenda that will be essential to deliver on food security, farmers’ livelihood and rural development, and take better care of our natural resources. Realigning incentives will be an important approach in such a transformation journey,” said Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).