A central ESG issue
Energy aside, food production may well become the central ESG issue of our times. Agriculture is tightly linked to both environmental climate risks and to socioeconomic stability. Food production corporations need to apply solutions that feed people sustainably, supporting communities over the long term, without degrading our ecological supports in the process.
The Food Planet Prize
The Curt Bergfors Food Planet Prize was established to find, recognize, and support initiatives and projects that can help us shift to resilient food systems and achieve food security within this decade. In their latest promo video, Helen Mirren sets a deliberately stark tone. But all is not bleak, and there are clear and viable solutions that can be applied.
"Our food system is broken, and the planet is ailing. We're all part of the problem, and we must all try to be part of the solution. I wish to contribute through the foundation and these awards" - Curt Bergfors
What do solutions look like?
One of the 2020 finalists is an organisation called The Global Crop Diversity Trust. Also known simply as 'the Crop Trust' the Germany based organisation is working to safeguard the genetic diversity of global crops, stored in gene banks for food production options in various climate scenarios. Diversity is the key to ensuring the resilience of our food systems. Evidence shows that without increased genetic diversity, agriculture will not be able to meet the future challenges caused by population growth, increasing wealth and a changing climate.
The ESG angle
Depending on the climate scenarios we ultimately face, agricultural gene banks may come to serve as “lenders of last resort”. Food security serves as the anchor which stabilises the entire edifice of human economic and social activity writ large. The funding gene of banks therefore has deeply embedded environmental and social dimensions which should constitute a natural focal point for ESG investing.
Additionally however, ESG investors (especially those with a long-term perspective) should seek to reward agri-business models which measurably improve genetic crop diversity today. In practice this requires a shift away from crop monocultures as the basis of food production, and a reallocation of capital towards regenerative agricultural techniques that incorporate a multiplicity of plant species functioning together to improve the carrying capacity of arable land. There is a long road ahead - but smart financial decisions today are essential to travel that road successfully and ensure positive outcomes commercially, socially and environmentally.