BCFN International Forum: 10 years serving sustainability

BCFN International Forum: 10 years serving sustainability

December 06, 2019

BCFN International Forum: 10 years serving sustainability

The tenth edition of the international event organized by the Barilla Foundation will focus on business, digital innovation and local community enhancement

As Guido Barilla pointed out, “the Earth is burning”: this slogan was introduced in the last edition of the International Forum on Food and Nutrition of the Barilla Foundation, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2019. On stage in Milan, the Chairman of the Foundation added: “we need clear rules and the active participation of all the players involved, but we must also make a huge cultural and educational effort to raise awareness of the urgency of the sustainability challenges we face today.” He also stressed that the Barilla Group is committed to following scientific guidelines and to pursue a virtuous and sustainable business model. This year’s annual sustainability event was organized in collaboration with World Food Programme Italia, National Geographic Italia, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN SDSN), the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS), the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI), the Santa Chiara Lab-University of Siena (SCL) and the Global Alliance for the Future of Food (GAFF). In the morning, internationally renowned experts – moderated first by Danielle Nierenberg, President of FoodTank, and then by Vanessa Hauch, correspondent for Noticias Telemundo and winner of an Emmy Award – took it in turns to share their ideas and projects also using the hashtag #actionforchange, as part of a joint effort to achieve food system sustainability, going from theory to practice. 

From individual citizens to large companies

Everyone has a role to play in the journey towards achieving sustainable food systems; this message was repeatedly emphasized during the eight morning work sessions, which tackled the subject from different angles. Ertharin Cousin, Distinguished Fellow of Global Food and Agriculture at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, gave a passionate speech on the need for institutions and the entire population to contribute, which was then also highlighted in the all-female round table on the wellbeing of people and the planet. During the debate, Hilal Helver, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food said, “We must inform ourselves, look beyond our daily routines and become actual food citizens.” 

Companies also have a key role to play in achieving the goals of the 2030 agenda. This emerged from the Fixing the Business of Food report, written together with the Barilla Foundation, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN SDSN), the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI) and the Santa Chiara Lab - University of Siena (SCL), which was presented at the Forum by Angelo Riccaboni, a member of the UN SDSN and director of the Santa Chiara Lab. “Investing in the transformation of agri-food systems would be beneficial in many ways”, added Jeremy Oppenheim, Systemiq’s partner, who pointed out that investing $300-350 billion a year (less than 0.3% of global GDP) would generate a return of approximately $5.7 trillion.


Sustainability-friendly technology

How can we transform food systems to make them truly sustainable? For example, by using technology carefully, it can become a valuable ally to increase productivity and redirect interest to activities that young people now consider undesirable, such as agriculture. “Artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things are incredibly powerful tools, but they will only bring benefits if they are well targeted. Technology cannot take us back in time, but it can certainly help us move in the right direction,” explained Andrea Renda of the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) when presenting, for the first time, the study “Digitising AgriFood: Pathways and Challenges”, conducted by the Barilla Foundation in collaboration with the CEPS. However, technology is not sufficient to create a sustainable global agri-food system for everyone. We must necessarily take local communities into account, which, with their food and cultural traditions, are the true guardians of biodiversity and the driving force behind change. As Professor Gautam Yadama, Dean and Professor at the Boston College School of Social Work, explained, “We are really good at theoretical research, but we also need to move on to practice.” In his speech, he highlighted the importance of involving local communities in all sustainability projects. 

Most of the ideas that emerged during the morning session were discussed in detail by the eight parallel working groups during the afternoon session, in which the issue of sustainability was addressed in a comprehensive way, covering topics such as the link between food and climate change (IPCC Report) and food education, as well as the role of cities and the presentation of the project SU-EATABLE LIFE – Driving the Transition towards Sustainable and Healthy Diets. 

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