The UN's 2014-2016 strategy for Global Compact, an initiative for a sustainable and inclusive world economy, looks at the role of businesses in long-term food and agriculture advances and asks how firms can help in delivering practical, effective and scalable solutions to meet the global challenges of food security.
Since its launch in 2000, the programme has gained signatures from 8,000 corporations, and holds ambitions of reaching 13,000 by 2016 and 20,000 by 2020.
The Global Compact’s agricultural arm, Food and Agriculture Business Principles, is currently in a stakeholder consultation phase expected to culminate towards the end of March this year. The release comes amid ongoing debate surrounding rising populations and plateauing food production.
Sustainable food supplies
The latest draft of the food branch asks businesses to commit to building, supporting and operating agriculture systems that provide enough food and proper nutrition for every person on the planet. The pledges lay out concerns within environmental responsibility, economic viability and share value across the entire value chain from farmers to consumers as well as human rights and community development.
“Businesses should improve the lives of workers and farmers, respect the rights of all people, and provide equal opportunities that result in communities that are attractive to work, live and invest in,” the draft principal reads.
The draft also covers issues of corruption and accountability, stating businesses should respect the law and recognise natural resource and land rights. It also states that businesses have a responsibility to invest in new technologies that could improve agricultural production.
The UN agency Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), has said that sustainable food chains from farm to folk are paramount if we are to keep up with the world’s growing population.
Earlier this year, Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General commented: "Our common approach to food production is simply not sustainable today, or in 2050, when we will have to provide food for a population of 9.6 billion people. Fortunately we have the means to drastically change our production systems and consumption patterns, which means creating healthy food systems for healthy people."
A transformative force
A presentation for the future strategy said: “Markets are essential for creating and diffusing solutions that will drive the changes our world needs. But, this will not happen through business as usual. Investment and business activity must be sustainable – delivering value not just financially, but also in social, environmental and ethical terms.”
The report said we are at a critical juncture and must work towards making corporate sustainability a “transformative force” in achieving a shared and secure future.
Discussing the Global Compact, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said: “It has grown to become a critical platform for the UN to engage effectively with enlightened global business.”