Our world is at a critical juncture. Almost half the children around the planet are already at ‘extremely high risk’ from the impacts of the climate crisis. Alongside this, the pandemic has intensified inequality and vulnerability. As many as 124 million more people around the world have been pushed into extreme poverty in the past 18 months.[1] As we race towards the 2030 deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), time to ensure a greener planet and thriving, resilient communities is short.

The UN Food Systems Summit, held today during the UN General Assembly in New York, presents a major opportunity to leverage the power of food systems to drive our recovery from the pandemic and get us back on track to achieving the SDGs. Food systems touch every aspect of human existence: the health of our food systems profoundly affects the health of our bodies, as well as the health of our environment, our economies and our cultures. When they function well, food systems have the power to bring us together as families, communities and nations.  

Global food production and consumption is intrinsically linked to achieving the SDGs – including SDGs to reduce poverty, to end hunger, to create decent work and stimulate economic growth. And that’s why the Summit is so vital. It will unite stakeholders from around the world to help agree action for more inclusive, resilient and sustainable food systems that can support a prosperous global population.

The global food industry has played a huge role in helping to enhance health, wellbeing and living standards across the world. More people than ever have access to affordable, nutritious food. There is a great deal to be proud of. But of course, there is much work to be done – as highlighted by a new report from the World Benchmarking Alliance. The report ranks the environmental, nutritional and social impacts of 350 food and agriculture companies. It shows that while numerous businesses – including many members of The Consumer Goods Forum – are performing well, there are worrying gaps in vital areas like tackling climate change, progress on human rights and empowering nutritious diets.

Clearly, there is an urgent need for increased commitment, transparency, and above all, tangible and meaningful action. Everyone across the food system must strive to improve the accessibility and affordability of healthy food for people around the world, to minimise the food system’s environmental footprint, and to ensure sustainability throughout each aspect of food production. If businesses fail to act now, achieving the SDGs will be further out of sight than ever.

The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) has a critical role to play in all of this. CGF brings together the senior leaders from more than 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and other stakeholders across 70 countries. We’re the only CEO-led organisation that represents both manufacturers and retailers globally, with more than 50 of the world’s top CEOs on our Board of Directors. CGF is about setting competition aside to find and share solutions that will make the world a better place. We are committed to ensuring better lives through better business. And we collaborate globally to drive change through Coalitions of Action on eight urgent issues: forests, human rights, plastics, healthier lives, food waste, food safety, supply chains and product data. Partnerships are key to everything we do, and the range of partners we work with is vast – not just businesses but governments, local health authorities, academia, NGOs and other industry bodies.

CGF provides a way for businesses to work together to be ahead of the curve. And we are restless in our pursuit of progress. Yesterday, for example, CGF’s Forest Positive Coalition of Action launched its new Annual Report, showing vital progress on its commitment to publicly report against new performance metrics to end commodity-driven deforestation.

Now is the time for greater cooperation and commitment between everyone across the food industry. We must all seize the moment for greater collaboration to continually improve the way the world produces, consumes and thinks about food. The intertwined relationship between business, the environment and society is clearer than ever: no businesses can thrive unless the wider communities and the places where it operates are thriving as well. We are all part of the food system, and we all must come together to bring about the transformation that the world needs.  

You can also learn more about our work at the upcoming Sustainable Retail Summit – in Paris and online – taking place on 13th-14th October.

[1] https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/07/1096682