UN Global Compact launches six principles for sustainable food industry

The UN Global Compact unveiled a set of six principles that food and agriculture businesses worldwide can adopt to meet food security challenges more effectively and sustainably.

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Ensuring food security and access to safe, nutritious food for a rapidly growing population, in a sustainable and effective manner, is one of the key challanges facing the world's food and agriculture industry. Image: Shutterstock

The UN Global Compact on Tuesday unveiled a set of six Food and Agriculture Business (FAB) principles that will help food and agriculture businesses to operate in a more sustainable manner, embark on cross-sector collaborations, and develop more consistent and coherent sustainability reports.

This set of global voluntary principles for sustainability is the first in the food and agriculture industry. It aims to help businesses, governments and civil society to ensure food security in a world that is bound to have nine billion people by 2050, said the international organisation for corporate responsibility.

Feeding a rapidly growing population is a pressing concern noted in the Rio+20 conference in 2012, they pointed out. A global gathering for sustainable development, the conference identified sustainable agriculture, improving the functioning of markets and enhancing international cooperation as key strategies to combat this challenge. The six principles are a response to this outcome from the Rio+20 conference and they encourage companies to:

  1. Support food and agricultural systems that optimise production and nutrition, and minimise wastage.
  2. Manage agriculture, livestock, fisheries and forests responsibly, to ensure that food systems intensify sustainably to meet growing global demand for food.
  3. Create, deliver and share value across the entire food and agriculture chain, from farmers to consumers.
  4. Respect the human rights of farmers, workers and consumers by improving livelihoods and providing equal opportunities.
  5. Practice good governance and accountability by respecting land and natural resource rights, avoiding corruption, and being transparent about the impact of business activities.
  6. Promote access to information, knowledge and skills for more sustainable food and agricultural systems, and invest in building capacities of smallholders and small-and-medium enterprises.

We welcome all farmers and agribusinesses – regardless of size, crop or location – to make this principle-based commitment and show their overall orientation toward corporate sustainability.

Puvan Selvanathan, Head of Food and Agriculture, UN Global Compact

Puvan Selvanathan, head of Food and Agriculture at the UN Global Compact, said: “The FAB Principles establish a set of values for companies in this sector wanting to act responsibly, by bridging between their practices and the public good outcomes sought by policymakers.”

The principles make it easier for sustainability reports to be compared across organisations within the industry, and best practices to be shared more easily by establishing a universally applicable reference point for what an effective and sustainable food system looks like, the UN Global Compact added.

From a cross-sector perspective, the principles also bridge the policy-practice gap by serving as a comprehensive framework for food and agriculture companies to collaborate with governments, UN agencies and civil society organisations to achieve sustainable outcomes, they explained.  

Companies that are members of the UN Global Compact must produce an annual ‘Communication on Progress’ report on their sustainability policies and practices, and can reflect their commitment to the FAB principles through this annual report. All other food and agriculture businesses can likewise use the FAB principles to shape their business practices, and develop their own sustainability reports.

“We welcome all farmers and agribusinesses – regardless of size, crop or location – to make this principle-based commitment and show their overall orientation toward corporate sustainability,” said Selvanathan.

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