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WWF's Markets Institute Out to Advance Sustainable Food Production

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has launched the Markets Institute, a dedicated platform working with stakeholders — particularly the private sector — to increase the speed and scale of market-based approaches to help optimize global food sector sustainability.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has launched the Markets Institute, a dedicated platform working with stakeholders — particularly the private sector — to increase the speed and scale of market-based approaches to help optimize global food sector sustainability.

“Where and how we produce food, along with climate change, will determine whether or not we will be able to maintain our world’s biodiversity and ecosystems,” said Carter Roberts, WWF president and CEO. “Our new Markets Institute is a vital initiative in WWF’s global strategy to create measurable, swift impact at scale.”

While food production already has the largest environmental impacts globally of any human activity, it needs to roughly double by 2050 to meet net demand. A more sustainable future depends on producing more with less land, water and other key inputs.

“Global food production has to change at a systemic level over the coming years. To do this all stakeholders, especially companies, need to rethink how they collaborate to increase the speed and scale of this change,” said Jason Clay, WWF SVP and Executive Director of the new Washington, D.C.-based Institute.

WWF’s science-based experience has shown that sectors change when stakeholders share a common understanding of issues and trends as well as problems and solutions. They can then better prioritize current and future risks and develop joint strategies to address them. Creating a more sustainable global food system must be a precompetitive process with the private sector working together to develop significant, lasting practices.

“The Institute gives stakeholders a dedicated platform to work towards that goal — exploring problems together, and developing precompetitive solutions together. By bringing the right people to the table, WWF has already proven we can collectively incubate workable approaches the private sector can translate into market-based, sector-wide solutions,” Clay said.

The Institute has already begun convening select groups this year from the private and public sectors, NGOs, and academic institutions, to discuss some of the preliminary high-impact issues the Institute has identified as priority areas — starting with how to encourage investment in more sustainable production among smallholder farmers.

“For example, we are working with a diverse group of engaged partners, including financial institutions, to determine how commitments by companies to buy more sustainably produced raw materials by 2020 can reduce the risk of investments in more sustainable production by smallholders,” Clay said. “In this case, we are looking at solutions that help the environment, smallholders and companies because those are the most likely to be implemented by the private sector.”

Other areas the Institute will explore this year include how to better understand the risks of illegality on global supply chains, and how best to measure and reduce waste from food supply chains.

Leveraging data analytics, business cases and qualitative research initiatives, the Institute’s work will also draw on the perspectives of its Thought Leader Group (TLG) — an informal group of industry experts, academics, commodity traders and others. The TLG provides the Institute and its partners, consisting of companies, individuals, researchers and other stakeholders, with real-world insights from different vantage points of global supply chains.

Howard-Yana Shapiro, TLG member and Chief Agricultural Officer at Mars, welcomed the launch of the Institute, adding that “The use of this venture capital model, nixing unrealistic approaches and focusing on those where you have consensus among serious people who can actually move the needle, is key to accelerating credible scalable responses in the face of change.”

In September, WWF-UK and the Food Ethics Council released a report, From individual to collective action: exploring the business case for addressing sustainable food security, which concludes that sustainable food security delivers long-term business security. To help ensure this reality, WWF is focused on achieving sustainability of our global food system through a variety of partnerships with the private sector: Working to fight against food waste in the food services sector as a founding member of the International Food Waste Coalition — along with Ardo, McCain, PepsiCo, SCA, Sodexo and Unilever Food Solutions; as a founding member of the recently launched Champions 12.3 coalition aimed at increasing political and social momentum around reducing global food waste; and through partnerships with companies such as John West which, with the help of the Marine Stewardship Council, helped the packaged seafood giant achieve the world’s largest range of certified-sustainable tuna.