Posts Tagged ‘Sustainable Food Systems’

Investing in Food Security: Opportunities for Canadian Investors

Note: Originally posted on the Responsible Investment Association (RIA) website.

Guest post by Peter Chapman, Executive Director, SHARE

Building Sustainable Food Systems in Canada: A Role for Investors, was released by the Shareholder Association for Research & Education (SHARE), a leading Canadian responsible investment organization. The report was funded by Canadian philanthropic foundations including the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.

Dried corn plants in Nebraska. Source: AP.

Looking outside at the last few hardy frost-rimed vegetables in my garden, the forces at work are easy to comprehend: freezing temperatures and failing daylight hours. But for institutional investors, the risks and opportunities embedded in our food systems are less obvious. So too are the connections between long-term investment returns and the resilience, sustainability and accessibility of food systems. Building Sustainable Food Systems in Canada: A Role for Investors, a new paper from the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE), takes aim at broadening our understanding of these issues.

One fundamental sustainability challenge facing global food systems is ensuring food security for all. Simply put, food security means people’s ability to access sufficient, safe and nutritious food. Food insecurity is often associated with political instability, drought and war. It is exacerbated by competition for arable land, climate change, soil erosion, natural disasters, and disease. Corporate practices that shift agricultural land use to the production of cash crops[1], biofuels and animal raising can have negative food security implications, especially for small-scale and subsistence farmers.

Food insecurity happens in households, too. In Canada, for example, approximately four million Canadians, including more than a million children, experienced food insecurity in 2012.[2] This kind of household level food insecurity is perpetuated by stagnant wages, social and economic exclusion, and inadequate social protection.

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Carbonated Food

ClimateSmartimagetacofino

Source: Climate Smart, Carbon Emissions in the Food and Beverage Sector, 2014

The contribution of food production, processing, distribution, and consumption to our global carbon emissions has been a matter of concern and debate since we began worrying about climate change. And more of our food is ‘carbonated’ than Coke and Pepsi: food systems are responsible for somewhere between a fifth and a third of global greenhouse gas emissions[1].

Much of these emissions come from agriculture, although the contribution of transportation, refrigeration, consumer practices, and waste management is growing. Food companies can take steps to reduce their carbon footprint – and many are. A recently released report by Foundation grantee Climate Smart highlights what 77 food companies in BC have done to cut carbon, including Left Coast Naturals (a distribution company), Van Houtte coffee, Recycling Alternatives (biofuel recycling) and Tacofino food trucks.

Climate Smart estimates a 5% reduction in annual carbon emissions from BC’s food and beverage sector would save BC businesses $100 million in operating costs by 2020 and reduce the province’s greenhouse gas emissions by 250,000 tonnes. This is the equivalent to taking 48,136 cars off the road. (more…)