“If you want to supply for us, prove you’re committed to sustainable sourcing.”
If you had put those words in the mouth of the CEO of a major retailer or food producer five years ago, you might be accused of being a fantasist. Had it been done two years ago, people would be sceptical that such a statement would be made in public.
Yet today, more and more companies are making precisely that demand. Not only is it to be welcomed, but it also represents a sea-change in attitude that must be acted upon along the full supply chain. Sustainability is no longer optional and is increasingly becoming part of the business bottom line.
Despite my timeline portraying this as something of a sudden attitudinal shift, getting to this point has been a lengthy journey. For years now, organizations such as the WWF, The Nature Conservancy, the United Nations, the World Resources Institute, and the IPCC – among many others – have been calling for urgent change to the way we feed the planet’s more than 7 billion mouths. That’s even before we consider that the population will hit 9 billion before 2050; something the WRI point out will create a demand for 56 per cent more food. The gap will be worse for ‘resource intensive’ meat and dairy – with demand to rise by 70 per cent.
What is indisputable is that, in the past two years in particular, more has been done to move us towards a more sustainable future than in the past 20. So, what has changed?
To put not too fine a point on it, we have. All of us. The topic of sustainability is no longer the sole domain of governments and NGOs, but also investors and insurance companies. Importantly, consumer attitudes have also drastically changed in the face of overwhelming evidence warning of dire consequences if we do not fundamentally change the way we live. Yet, efficacy and value still rank highly in driving purchasing decisions. For most of us, that process – and sometimes battle – begins on our plate.
From the creeping realization that the environmental footprint – from land and water use, to greenhouse gas emissions – of the current food and agricultural system cannot be sustained, to the now widely accepted fact that forever plucking wild fish from our oceans cannot last forever, people have become all too aware of how their decisions on what to have for dinner can impact the world around them.
This extends beyond simply how their food is produced, but also to how it is packaged, where it is grown and even the labor practices behind it getting to the factory in the first place.
Arguably the launch of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 catalyzed a recalibration of the thinking amongst various stakeholders towards the impact of business on the environment and local communities. Since that time, a series of landmark reports have continued this trajectory. From the WWF’s Living Planet report underlining the importance of preserving wild spaces and biodiversity, to the IPCC’s recent Special Report on Climate Change and Land shining a spotlight on the need for our food systems to undergo significant change in order to safeguard food security – people have begun to take notice, making their voices heard with every dollar they spend on groceries.
This rise in consumer activism has major retailers reacting. In the past few months, Tesco has updated their standards to insist farmed salmon are fed more sustainably, while US giant Walmart has said it sees sustainability as a ‘responsibility’, with its buying practices geared to source product lines that verify and improve supply chains. Transparency has become a critical component of a business’ ability to demonstrate its sustainability credentials and to enable informed consumer purchase decisions.
Changes such as these are to be welcomed and thoroughly embraced. But more is to be done – and the onus has firmly been put on producers.
The FAIRR Initiative called attention to this notion in its Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index report published in September – highlighting that, in contrast to the transport sector, only one in four meat, fish and dairy producers even measure their greenhouse gas emissions, and further noting that, “The Paris Agreement is impossible to achieve without tackling factory farm emissions.”
Meanwhile, Brazil’s soy industry has significantly grown – at the devastating cost of the rainforest. This soy isn’t solely used for vegetarian or vegan food products – it’s primarily grown to be used for animal feed products.
We need solutions, and at every level. At Calysta, we are committed to making more from less – which is why we are so passionate about our FeedKind® family of protein ingredients for fish, livestock and pets. Produced using absolutely no greenbelt land, it is fully traceable, sustainable and can be produced year-round regardless of weather conditions. Made using a natural fermentation process, it has the added bonus of being non-GMO, has no antibiotic residues, pesticides, dioxins, PCBs, heavy metals or other contaminant – and it’s already approved for use in the EU.
As a high-quality single-cell protein, FeedKind offers feed producers the perfect opportunity to dramatically improve the sustainability profile of their products while not compromising on nutrition given its complete amino acid profile and high nutrient density. In turn, this offers farmers the chance to reduce the impact their products have on the world’s resources, while maintaining or improving upon animal health and production efficiencies and thus remaining mindful of farmers’ economic livelihoods.
Ours is just one solution that delivers a significant improvement to our food production systems – helping us live more sustainably and protecting our planet’s precious natural resources and wild spaces and species in the process.
We cannot change the world in one day – nor will we ever convince everyone to change their food choices – but we can help make the food we eat more sustainable, something that consumers will increasingly demand in the months and years to come.
Chief Financial Officer and Chief Sustainability Officer, Calysta