At the Financial Times Global Commodities Summit in Lausanne on April 22, Lucas Simons was invited to take part in the panel discussion on “Sustainability: The strategic imperative”. The summit focused on the challenges the commodities industry faces today: A period of plentiful supply, low prices, diminished global growth and inflation. Global industry leaders such as ABN AMRO bank, Barry Callebaut, Louis Dreyfus and Cargill were present to debate topics such as the rise of China in the global agribusiness market and challenges faced by commodities traders in a rapidly changing market place.

The panel Lucas took part in discussed the sustainability of commodity supply chains. While there is a lot of public pressure on making commodity sectors more sustainable, it sometimes seems to come down to ticking boxes. Industry focuses on meeting certain requirements, but fails to address the true issues. However, some sectors are moving to the next level, such as in the cocoa industry, and working on sector wide sustainability strategies. The question the panel debated was whether the progress made here could lead the way for other commodity sectors. Lucas was joined in the panel by people in leading positions at Olam International, Barry Callebaut and ABN AMRO.

In Lausanne Lucas was interviewed on the subject by the Financial Times.  Lucas related on the four phases of market transformation as detailed in his book Changing the Food Game. He also shared his thoughts on current developments in the field of sustainability in the coffee and cocoa sector. The article that followed from this interview was published on April 20 by Emiko Terazono titled “Sustainability in commodities accrues momentum”. It discusses the rise of sustainability in different commodity markets and what this means for farmers and consumers. Financial Times subscribers can read the article here.

In general, the summit only touched the subject of sustainability. Whereas in agricultural commodities sustainability is starting to become a determining factor, the mining and oil sectors have barely started to incorporate sustainable practices into their way of doing business: these sectors are where agriculture was fifteen years ago. The inclusion of a panel on sustainability at this summit is however a commendable step that hopefully leads to integration of the theme in decision-making on a board level, because especially when it comes to depletable resources short-term thinking will not be sustainable in the long run.