FAO’s approach to all-round sustainability

FAO’s approach to all-round sustainability

January 10, 2019

FAO’s approach to all-round sustainability

FAO – one of the most active organizations in the battle against hunger through the transformation of current food systems – proposes a global strategy that involves different players all focused on reaching a common objective: sustainability.

The topics at the ninth edition of the International Forum on Food and Nutrition, organized by BCFN, which took place in Milan at the end of 2018, included economy, finance and collaboration between policy-makers and big international investors. “The science behind sustainability is very complex, as show the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and the hundreds of specific targets and indicators used to evaluate progress and achievements”, said Roberto Ridolfi – Special Advisor on Strategy and Financing Development at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations(FAO) in Rome – during the event in Milan. “The key to achieving effective food systems transformation able to eradicate hunger, is sustainability, which should play a central role in all sectors, including finance”. 

A journey towards sustainability: unequivocal data

FAO has always actively fought hunger and malnutrition, as shown by the numerous publications that over the years have provided a clear picture of the global situation and often offered solutions to some of the problems. Including the second edition of the paper “Achieving Zero Hunger”, on the critical role of investments in social protection and agriculture. “We collect data systematically and look for ad hoc solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, especially the second goal, eradicating hunger” explained Ridolfi, stressing the importance of taking into account the numerous factors and challenges linked to the current food systems when implementing effective strategies. Growing population, urbanization, climate change and poverty are the most obvious examples, but migrations, conflicts, investments and international commercial policies cannot be ignored. 


. “FAO collaborates daily with the authorities of numerous countries and adopts an approach based on sustainability and food systems transformation, with particular attention to the populations living in rural areas – which are the poorest – including small farmers, both men and women” added Roberto Ridolfi.

FAO’s proposal

How can food systems transformation be achieved by “expanding sustainability”? “It’s about making sure that sustainable practices are implemented as standard in all sectors and this can be achieved only with the help of the large companies but also thanks to the collaboration of small businesses, which can give a significant contribution” said Ridolfi, presenting a proposal that involves a range of very different players. 

According to Ridolfi, in line with FAO’s thinking, policy on its own is not enough, economic players are needed to internalize costs that were previously externalized and crucially the focus must be on investments with practical and concrete interventions. “Possibly, implementing a number of sustainability certifications” he suggested, stressing that creating the foundations for targeted interventions requires up-to-date data and indexes, including the Food Sustainability Index, created from the collaboration between BCFN and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). “In relation to such a complex topic, the FAO could act as guardian of the sustainable development goals, but it is essential that the indicators that determine and measure sustainability are described clearly to all those who may be involved in the transformation: from chefs to companies, from commercial banks to investment banks, from farmers’ associations to consumers’ associations”, concluded Ridolfi.  

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