When it comes to establishing sustainable food systems, the UN laid a firm foundation with its Sustainable Development Goal, “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.” Efforts to combat hunger and malnutrition, and improve supply chain infrastructure and efficiency, have delivered some encouraging results. But much more is needed to create sustainable food systems for all.
More than 800 million people in the world suffer from hunger; that’s 1 in 9 individuals who have little hope of building productive lives simply because they don’t have enough nutrition. And yet, every year, 1.6 billion tons of food worth about $1.2 trillion are lost or go to waste. That’s one-third of the total amount of food produced globally.
Equally concerning are the projected increases in population and growth in climate-related disasters—which have doubled since the early 1990s. A growing population means more mouths to feed with the same limited resources; an increase in climate disasters means more droughts, floods, and storms hindering global food production.
Can society hope to resolve these problems and achieve universal food security? Yes—but doing so will require agricultural, technological, and economic innovation, along with new forms of cross-sector collaboration.
Achieving and sustaining universal food security hinges on creating sustainable food production and distribution systems, as well as resilient agricultural practices. Among the many players working to surmount the food security challenge, businesses will need to play a key role. They’ll have to enable sufficient increases in food production—plus ensure access to food.
Tailoring food sustainability strategies to diverse income levels will be vital. For instance, strategies must address the low purchasing power of the so-called “bottom billion”—the very poorest, who cannot afford to pay prices equal to or above companies’ production costs.
Development funding also needs to evolve. For example, a previous lack of interest and investment in African agriculture has catalyzed a food crisis on the continent. Yet agriculture is Africa’s biggest source of jobs and a crucial contributor to human welfare. Thankfully, the problem has begun attracting attention and investment, fostering a new focus on adapting African agriculture to enhance food security.
How can food companies tailor their food-security strategies to the bottom billion? These three models can help:
While progress has been made toward combating global hunger, much work remains. If every organization seeking to address this worldwide scourge can commit to collaborating and innovating in new ways, they can set the stage for enduring advances in the war on hunger. The payoff? More people around the world will have the nourishment and energy needed to live productive, satisfying lives. They’ll be able to contribute to their families, their communities, and their national economies. And for the businesses that contribute, there is an opportunity to increase their bottom lines.
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Managing Director & Partner
Managing Director & Senior Partner
Managing Director & Senior Partner