The Future Food Challenge: Three Sustainability Game-Changers Highlighted

We’re faced with a global food crisis. How do we feed 9 billion people in 2050? How do we overcome one of the biggest challenges facing humanity? And how can we do it in a fair and sustainable way? Simply increasing crops and yields isn’t the solution.

To get there, we need to transform our food system. One of the most effective ways to achieve this, is by changing the way we eat. Shifting consumption to more sustainable, fair and nutritious diets will encourage other actors in the food system to take action. In this blog, we dive into game-changing solutions in the food system. This time around, we take a look at the chocolate industry, true pricing and veganuary. We will show how they’re creating disruptive impact and how they contribute to the future food challenge. We believe that we can only drive sustainable change if we challenge the current system and change the rules of the game.

1. Tony’s Chocolonely: a sweet solution to a bitter truth

Today, there are still more than 1.5 million children and at least 30,000 victims of modern slavery forced to work on cocoa plantations. This means that big chocolate companies aren’t doing enough to change it. Tony’s Chocolonely has been a front-runner in eradicating modern slavery and child labor from the chocolate industry, and is now challenging big chocolate companies by offering ‘a sweet solution to chocolate’s bitter truth’.

A slave-free chocolate industry

With a new eye-catching and disruptive campaign, Tony’s Chocolonely has yet again raised awareness about the human rights violations across the sector and the lack of action of big chocolate companies to tackle this problem. The ‘Sweet Solution’ campaign calls on consumers to sign a petition supporting the need for human rights legislation in order to hold these companies legally accountable for violations in their supply chains. In addition, Tony’s has rolled out limited-edition bars that look remarkably similar to big chocolate brands, like KitKat and Twix, to raise further awareness about their role in the industry. The profits made from the limited-edition bars will be donated to 100WEEKS, a platform that assists women in escaping the cycle of extreme poverty.

The move is already causing a stir among chocolate companies, who have been putting pressure on supermarkets to remove the limited-edition bars. This shows the level of Tony’s success – whilst increasing popular demand with its consumers, it has also managed to put pressure on the entire chocolate sector to tackle some of the persistent ‘bitter’ issues that plague it. Together with partners, Tony’s has been campaigning for legislation to make companies responsible for human rights violations in their supply chains since 2017. Recently, pressure on global chocolate giants has been rising with a new slavery lawsuit in the US. 

With increasing consumer demand for corporate responsibility and sustainability, Tony’s campaign will likely inspire other brands (and possibly legislation) to take bold steps against human rights violations and to hold companies to account. 

2. True Price to stop others paying the price

There is a growing consensus that our current economic system is not only a driver of prosperity, but also of various societal and environmental problems. Production and consumption are leading to climate change, water pollution, underpayment of workers, child labor, deforestation, and many other issues. Often we do not bear the brunt of the negative impact caused by the products we buy. These so-called ‘externalities’ – or hidden social and environmental costs related to production and consumption – are paid for by nature or workers in other countries. Michel Scholte is on a mission to change this: he wants to change from a financial economy to an impact economy. Due to his thought leadership and his role co-founding True Price and the Impact Institute, he was recently elected as the ‘Minister of the New Economy’ by the Dutch CSR platform MVO Nederland.   

Uncovering the real cost of products

The idea is simple: on top of the market price, you pay the social and environmental costs – the true price. In turn, the market will incentivize the prevention and remediation of these costs. In case of deforestation linked to palm oil, for example, only products containing deforestation-free palm oil will remain price competitive.

Scholte’s organization True Price has developed a detailed methodology to calculate the true price of a product and is working with governments, businesses, research institutes, banks and consumers to implement true pricing in the economy. To put their ideas in practice, True Price partnered with a biological supermarket (De Aanzet) where customers voluntarily pay the true price. For each product the market price and the breakdown of the additional social and environmental costs are listed. A kilogram of tomatoes from Spain might cost €3,75 in a regular supermarket, but here 22 cents are added for underpayment, land use, water use and impact on the climate. True Price has since opened their own store in Amsterdam as well. Scholte hopes that the example set by the stores will encourage other supermarkets to start incorporating true prices too.

The Dutch government is also interested in the potential of this systemic solution, supporting research projects and experiments with true pricing to explore its potential to contribute to the agriculture and food transition in the future. In his role as Minister of the New Economy, Schulte will get a seat at the table with Dutch politicians and engage with the media to show the broad societal support for system change and new policies that contribute to sustainable outcomes.

3. Plant-based new year’s resolutions

The way we eat has a big impact on the environment and our health. Especially the production of animal products causes large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, takes up a lot of space and contributes to deforestation, soil degradation, water pollution, and biodiversity loss. Diets with a high share of animal products also have an adverse effect on our health, leading to obesity and chronic diseases. Meanwhile the world population is set to keep growing while increasing prosperity is leading more people to adopt diets rich in animal protein. One of the main solutions to this problem is transitioning to diets with a larger share of plant proteins. But how do we change people’s food choices? A campaign from the United Kingdom is building on the successes of dry January to drive systemic changes in the way we eat.

The Veganuary challenge

Starting in the UK with just over 10,000 sign-ups in 2015, a record 500,000 people signed up this year to the Veganuary challenge. Participants in the United States, South Africa, several Latin American countries as well as Germany, Austria and Switzerland pledged to eat only plant-based foods for a month. Apart from the direct environmental impact from lower meat and dairy consumption, the structural effect of the campaign lies in getting people to try eating differently. According to Veganuary, one of the largest hurdles for people going vegan are convenience and taste. Joining the challenge can show people the diversity of plant-based alternatives and let them experiment with integrating plant-based eating habits into their life. 

Veganuary has also actively engaged the food sector, with large fast-food restaurants and retailers expanding the number of plant-based options and promoting these among customers. In the UK supermarket Tesco ran television and radio adverts promoting Veganuary, while other supermarkets such as Aldi have produced dedicated Veganuary pages including information and recipes.

While the organizers’ ultimate aim is a vegan world, you don’t have to become vegan to solve environmental issues or improve your health. Merely eating less animal-based and more plant-based proteins can deliver about two-thirds of the benefits of getting rid of all meat and dairy production.

NewForesight: Ensuring Future Proof Diets for All

At NewForesight, we are dedicated to drive sustainable change. We partner with leading organizations from the private, public and nonprofit sectors who are seeking game-changing solutions to some of the most critical sustainability challenges of our generation and turn them into market opportunities. We bring the right people together, challenge established thinking and shape coalitions that lead to structural change.

Curious about how we can support you in transforming the food systems and drive sustainable change? Contact our contact our food systems expert Thomas Meijer or our food systems domain lead Laure Heilbron!