The Food Sector and the Sustainable Development Goals

The food sector confronts significant sustainable development challenges.  It both contributes to, and suffers from, environmental degradation, especially human-induced climate change and deforestation.  Although it can provide farming communities with livelihoods and incomes, it also can fuel land grabs that undermine community rights and wellbeing.  The sector feeds the growing global population, but also contributes to the epidemics of obesity and metabolic diseases, while chronic malnutrition has continued to worsen in the years since adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In light of these challenges and opportunities, a number of frameworks, guidance documents, and standards have aimed to create guidelines for more sustainable practices in the food industry.  Yet, these tools lack industry consensus, and fall short of a holistic, comprehensive framework for responsible practices in the food sector that align with the SDGs.

To assist both the food and financial sectors to better align conduct to the SDGs, CCSI and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network are developing a conceptual framework to define SDG-aligned business practices in the food sector. The project will bring coherence and rigor to SDG measurement, reporting, and tools, and will enable responsible, SDG-oriented companies to differentiate themselves clearly from peer companies that are pursuing business-as-usual practices behind a thin veneer of SDG engagement.

CCSI, the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN), the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), and the Santa Chiara Lab of the University of Siena (SCL) released a report framing the project alongside the UN General Assembly in September 2019 entitled Fixing the Business of Food: The Food Industry and the SDG Challenge. In 2020, during the week of the UN’s 75th General Assembly, the initiative presented Fixing the Business of Food. How to Align the Agri-Food Sector with the SDGs.

Under this project, the partners expect to engage with industry leaders, and to consult with representatives of key reporting standards, monitoring agencies, and academic disciplines to help build a consensus on best practices, reporting standards, and supply-chain monitoring to address the areas identified and highlighted in the report.

For more on CCSI and SDSN’s work on corporate alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals, see our framework defining SDG-aligned business practices in the energy sector.