Let's transform food Systems!




Let’s transform food systems! COP26 Special. President of WWF Int’l & CEO of GIST, Pavan Sukhdev, and Executive Director of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, Ruth Richardson, call for action


COP26 starts this Sunday and the world’s attention is focused on climate. Food systems are an integral component and we need to recognise their hidden costs and positive benefits.


Traditional accounting often fails to account properly for negative externalities, such as habitat destruction, soil erosion and water contamination, or positives such as carbon sequestration, insect pollination and resilience to natural disasters.


True-value accounting and true-cost accounting paint a much more holistic, comprehensive view which, in turn, helps inform food pricing, policy documents and balance sheets. If we are serious about sustainability, we need to account for the whole picture.


Pavan and Ruth provide insight, call for action and shed light on the invaluable work of WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), GIST Impact and the Global Alliance for the Future of Food. The evidence is robust and the arguments are clearly laid out in this podcast episode.


Ruth delves into their recently-published “True Value” report, which was launched just days ago by the Global Alliance for the Future of Food and identifies ‘beacons of hope’ to understand the breadth and depth of food systems’ positive impact.


We also learn from Pavan and Ruth of a 6-year old project in Andhra Pradesh, India, focused on natural farming, where more than 700,000 farmers (mainly women), have committed to a natural farming model, which has led to higher yields, lower water usage, lower on-farm and off-farm disease and positively impacted climate, soil benefits and various other components.


As we approach COP26, Ruth notes that we need countries to step up and recognise the importance of food systems to the climate agenda, to make the connections between food, climate, nature, equality etc — there is currently a disconnect.


Pavan notes that many SDGs are influenced by food systems. It’s not just SDG2 and sustainable food but also SDG3 (health), and SDG1 (poverty), SDG5 (gender equity), SDG4 (education), SDG6 (water) and SDG13 (climate) etc.


If we don’t see the whole picture and properly account for the hidden negatives and positives, we are simply not going to get to the solutions that are so desperately needed.


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About Ruth Richardson


Ruth Richardson is the Executive Director of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food. She brings over 25 years' of experience in the philanthropic sector to this role and, of particular relevance to this undertaking, has extensive experience starting new and complex things. These include being the first Director of the Unilever Canada Foundation, Founding Chair of the Canadian Environmental Grantmakers’ Network, and the first Environment Director at the Metcalf Foundation.


Her tenure at the Metcalf Foundation also included acting on the Advisory Committee of the City of Toronto, Board of Health, Toronto Food Strategy to develop an action plan to improve the food system of the Toronto city region. 


Ruth also served as the lead consultant to establish The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada and has worked with private-public partnerships on sustainability issues and cross-border collaborations, such as coastal fisheries management.


In her capacity with the Global Alliance, Ruth is on the International Advisory Group on Up-scaling Ecosystem-based Adaptation funded by the German Federal Environmental Ministry under its International Climate Initiative. She also served on the Steering Committee of TEEBAgriFood led by UN Environment, as well as on the International Advisory Committee of the Global Urban Food Policy Pact. 


In 2020, Richardson was appointed by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to serve on the Advisory Committee for the 2021 Food Systems Summit, and to serve as Chair, Champions Network. Richardson was awarded 2021 Alumni of Influence by University of Toronto, Canada. 


About Pavan Sukhdev


Pavan Sukhdev is President of WWF International and CEO of GIST Impact. He is a scientist by education, an international banker by training, and an environmental economist by passion.


Years of work in sustainability and the invisible economics of nature led to his appointment to head the United Nations’ “Green Economy Initiative” and to lead the G8+5 study TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity).


In his book ‘Corporation 2020’, he describes four changes in micro-policy and regulation which can rapidly transform today’s corporation to deliver tomorrow’s green and equitable “economy of permanence”.


As founder and CEO of GIST, his sustainability consulting firm, Pavan works with asset managers, C-suite executives and senior government officials on transition techniques, with an emphasis on metrics for sustainability.


Pavan is a Goodwill Ambassador for UN Environment, promoting TEEB implementation and Inclusive Green Economy transitions. He has served on the boards of Conservation International (CI), the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), and on the TEEB Advisory Board. Pavan has won several awards for his work including the Blue Planet Prize (2016) and the Tyler Prize (2020).