With corporate and consumer interest in the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals growing, researchers have pointed out that by aligning themselves with this campaign food companies’ portion of the overall business opportunities could reach $2-3 trillion by 2030.
According to the Business & Sustainable Development Commission’s Better Business Better World report, published in January 2017, the UN SDGs could create economic opportunities worth up to $12 trillion, increasing employment by up to 380,000 jobs by 2030, the deadline for implementing the goals.
The 17 goals were adopted by the 193 UN member-states two years ago and since then food companies have been seeking to align their sustainability aims and objectives with the targets.
The goals are considered to be the most significant set of shared goals the world has ever endorsed and touch on every facet of human life on the planet.
In an article on Just-Food.com, Ben Cooper recently wrote: “The identification of shared goals is a recurring theme in both the corporate rhetoric and action around sustainability, so it is little wonder the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) are becoming a focal point for food industry sustainability strategies.”
Jeff Seabright, chief sustainability officer at Unilever, a diversified multinational corporation with food interests, believes global goals are a great opportunity for business. Unilever and its CEO Paul Polman have been a key figures in the development of the UN SDGs and are looking to build support for the goals among CEOs by articulating the business benefits he believes they can bring.
Kris Charles, senior vice president for global corporate affairs, at Kellogg, observed in the article that corporate engagement is necessary because “by aligning our goals with the SDGs, we can help drive increased awareness and support of the goals, and contribute towards creating measurable progress.”
Mehmood Khan, vice chairman and chief scientific officer for global research and development at PepsiCo, noted that by raising awareness about the SDGs, corporations and brands can connect with their audiences and demonstrate shared values.
It has been natural for food companies to be prominent in the first wave of corporations aligning with the UN SDGs, since sustainable food production, agriculture and access to nutrition play a prominent role in the goals. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is the curator that monitors indicators across six of them – 2, 5, 6, 12, 14 and 15, which are key for food companies (see chart). They focus on eliminating hunger, building food security and a sustainable agricultural system, access to water and sanitation, sustainable production and consumption and protecting forests and oceans.
PepsiCo’s Khan identified SDGs 2, 3, 6, 8, 12 and 13 as having “particular relevance” to the company’s own Performance with Purpose 2025 agenda.
Dave Stangis, vice president for corporate responsibility and sustainability at Campbell Soup Co., observed: “We have mapped our material issues, determined by our annual materiality assessment, to all 17 of the SDGs. We have threads of work that cut across every SDG. The SDGs provide a roadmap for companies and countries alike to set targets and report progress over time to achieve a sustainable future.”
The spirit of the SDGs is inclusive and for them to be successfully implemented by 2030, the corporations and global organizations absolutely need to work with the private sector.
Christian Frutiger, global head public affairs at Nestle, affirmed the sharing aspect of the goals: “Achieving the SDGs will only be possible through more effective and dynamic multi-stakeholder approach and partnership at local, national and international levels. Nestle strives to play its part and urges others to join collective effort working with civil society, governments and others.”
In a related story, No. 2 broadliner, US Foods, won KKR’s second annual Eco-Innovation Award for its “Serve Good” line, comprised of 260 products that address key food sustainability issues, including organic, non-GMO, sustainable seafood, animal care, waste reduction, or responsible disposables.
Corporations can participate in formulating global policies on sustainability and other issues by joining the more than 9,700 members of the United Nation’s Global Compact.