Two reports were recently released within a week of each other that highlight the continued presence of hunger in a world where obesity is increasing, and the long-term consequences for the environment given current farming practices in many parts of the world. Both are worth reading and have implications for PepsiCo.
The first report, ‘2011 State of the World: Innovations that Nourish the Planet’, was produced by the Worldwatch Institute. The report is based on two years of extensive reviews of farming and food across Africa. It highlights the centrality of women as the major contributors to farming, the massive post harvest losses that remain common, and the importance of taking an ecological approach to addressing soil health. It is illustrated with many optimistic stories of real progress in boosting productivity in a continent that contains over 250 million of the world’s 1 billion hungry.
The second report, a product of the United Kingdom’s Foresight team and entitled ‘The Future of Food and Farming: Challenges and Choices for Global Sustainability’ is based in the inputs of over 400 scientists around the world. The report paints a stark picture of a failing food system that will be subject to greater volatility in years to come. It highlights how the current food system has negative impacts on global water use, green house gas emissions, biodiversity and human health.
At the official launch on January 25th, the report received strong support from the UK government along with a commitment to act on the domestic and international recommendations. These include: increasing food supply in a more sustainable and intensified way and through greater use of a range of technology options; moderating demand for some foods, particularly meat; reducing waste (post harvest waste in Africa and post purchase waste in developed countries); and building closer links between nutrition and agriculture (with a greater focus on biofortification being just one example cited).
The emphasis on Africa comes just as PepsiCo has announced plans to step up its activities on the continent. This creates unprecedented opportunities to partner with leading development agencies like the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and build private-public alliances aimed at boosting ecologically sustainable forms of agriculture that are directly linked to job creation and hunger elimination.
The focus on sustainable agriculture comes as we implement our bold commitments on health and the environment in a more integrated way. For example, as we expand our dairy business, we will need to consider ways of offsetting the increased methane production it will cause with tree planting and other agricultural investments.
The success of our Global Nutrition Group, and in fact all of PepsiCo, will increasingly depend upon how we secure our supply chain for the future. And this will increasingly require us to redouble our insights and investments in sustainable agriculture. I urge our readers to read these reports and send comments about how you feel we should respond in the short, medium and long term. This might start by committing to eat less meat, starting a vegetable garden, or becoming a volunteer!