Dear Produce Industry Colleagues,
2021 will be a very active and eventful year for the global fresh produce industry and the United Nations are at the forefront of events that impact upon our industry. I am attempting with this note at the end of the year to ‘paint you a picture’ on how these various events and organisations you keep hearing about are connected and how they impact on our industry.
International Year of Fruits and Vegetables
2021 has been declared the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IYFV) and the FAO, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation has released a background paper entitled “Fruit & Vegetables – Your Dietary Essentials”, which you can download at http://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/cb2395en.
A great opportunity to shine the light on our products and focus on the benefits of increasing fruits and vegetables consumption. More information on that topic is available here.
UN Food Systems Summit 2021
The umbrella event for IYFV and others is the UN Food Systems Summit 2021, which will involve a series of food connected events and will culminate in New York in September 2021 (COVID-19 permitting).
You can find more information on this at https://www.un.org/en/food-systems-summit.
In short, the summit is aimed at advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals and making real progress in their implementation by 2030.
The Summit will bring together key players from the worlds of science, business, policy, healthcare and academia, as well as farmers, indigenous people, youth organisations, consumer groups, environmental activists, and other key stakeholders with the aim of bringing about tangible, positive changes to the world’s food systems.
The impact of this UN strategy reaches far beyond fruit and vegetables, yet our global industry sits fairly and squarely in the middle of the future food systems debate and we do need to be part of the ‘shapers’ of new systems, rather than have these implemented upon us.
International Federation for Produce Standards
United Fresh is a founder member of the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) and I am currently the New Zealand director on the IFPS board. The IFPS website, www.ifpsglobal.com, provides details on our objectives.
World Business Council for Sustainable Development
The Council (WBCSD) was set up in 1995 when sustainable development started to emerge as a global factor to be reckoned with. What WBCSD does and how it operates is available here at https://www.wbcsd.org/.
IFPS, WBCSD & UN Food Systems Summit 2021
WBCSD was tasked by the Food Systems Summit Organisers to establish a Private Sector Guiding Group (PSGG) to provide guidance and insight for the 2021 Summit from a business perspective.
The PSGG consists of representatives from 27 business associations selected to create geographical, supply chain and business size diversity, and true business representation in preparation for the Food Systems Summit.
IFPS will represent the global horticulture/produce sector on the PSGG and the IFPS Board has asked me to represent IFPS on the PSGG. The PSGG group will be chaired by Peter Bakker, President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).
To provide you with a flavour of what the work of the PSGG is all about, herewith some thoughts from WBSCD President Peter Bakker.
“The levers of change for the food systems are clear: we need to change the way in which we produce, process and consume food and galvanize global actions and commitments to improve our food systems to provide safe, nutritious food for all within our planetary boundaries – and supporting the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.
This is no easy task, though. The urgent and ambitious agenda of food systems transformation goes beyond business as usual. And beyond the power and reach of individual players. Realizing the transformation, and unlocking the business opportunities it represents, will require systemic change for economic, environmental and social resilience, as well as pioneering new forms of collaboration between all stakeholders involved – so the business community, the public sector, civil society, international organizations, youth representatives, farmer leaders, as well as each and every one of us and other key actors along the food value chain.
There are three big ideas that I would like to particularly emphasize for our journey toward the systemic transformation of the food systems.
The first one is the move towards regenerative agriculture, where I expect to see some real commitments coming out of initiatives like One Planet Business for Biodiversity and others. The second one is around dietary shifts: rethinking the kind of food we consume for the health of people and planet. And the last big type of ideas is around zero waste, both at the farm loss level, as well as the consumption and food waste level.
I agree with the UN Secretary General who stated that the Food Systems Summit needs to be a “People Summit”. All of these big ideas will and should be centred around people. In particular, this concerns farmers at the early parts of the value chain, whose operations need to be made more resilient in adapting to climate change and biodiversity loss. And on the other side of the value chains, this also concerns the consumer, with the main focus being on health aspects.
I am pushing hard to ensure that this will also be an “Action Summit” focused on solutions that can scale up fast.
And that is exactly where the role of business in all of this comes in. Business has a clear voice at the table in the food systems discussion, as so many core elements of our food – from farmers to those who process food and those that ultimately sell and market it – depend on the innovation, expertise and dedication of the business community. We want to work together as transparently and openly as possible and ensure that businesses support the success of the Food Systems Summit as well as systemic change.
By now, we have convened a Private Sector Guiding Group with 27 business associations selected to create geographical, supply chain, and business size diversity and true business representation as we prepare for the Food Systems Summit.
The Private Sector Guiding Group, strongly supported by the work of the WBCSD Food & Nature Program, has the clear aim of helping to mobilize food and agriculture companies, multi-national corporations, SMEs, business associations and other sectors that help our food system thrive such as finance, transportation, information and digital companies.
The five Action Tracks of the Summit are, in my mind, a brilliant choice for the mobilization of solutions. But where I believe the magic will actually happen is between those Action Tracks. We need to find solutions that benefit more than one Action Track. That’s what we call “game changing initiatives”. So, in this Private Sector Guiding Group, we’ve done an initial inventory and came up with 95 of those game changers, and we’re open to receive more.
But there is more business can and should do. We know that we should also focus on showcasing the willingness of the business community to set ambitious commitments. For instance, the Responsible Business Pledge for Better Nutrition is an example that will really change the way we think about what we will serve consumers.
WBCSD is now also publishing, in stages, a roadmap for food systems transformation. The first roadmap chapter, focused on healthy and sustainable diets, is out and goes into great detail over the targets for dietary shifts and the business actions and solutions to deliver those targets. Early 2021, we will publish the chapters on the production of food, the livelihoods around food, and lastly, the policy changes that we need to scale all up to real scale.
The Private Sector Guiding Group has developed a Statement of Ambition that clearly outlines the private sector’s commitment to the Food Systems Summit and achieving success by working together to help implement its outcomes. This statement of ambition will be developed further as the work of the action track materializes, to see where the business community can contribute and lead best.”
I hope I have been able to provide you with sufficient insight into the opportunities 2021 will bring for our entire industry in terms of a heightened fruit & vegetables focus to raise your interest and awareness. You will hear a lot more from me on this topic throughout 2021.
With best wishes for a safe and relaxed Christmas and New Year period, something we have all earned this year,
Dr Hans Maurer
Chair, Technical Advisory Group, United Fresh NZ Inc.