Comment: UN Global Compact consultation on the Sustainable Agriculture Business Principles - Call for Comments

The opportunity to get involved in shaping the future of sustainable agriculture is now. The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) is undertaking a 2-year consultation process to develop Sustainable Agriculture Business Principles (SABPs). You can comment through the on-line survey (here) or in person by attending the next consultation meeting in Geneva on 2nd December.

The aim of the SABPs is to create a platform of shared understanding and direction for sustainable agriculture. These principles are intended for use by businesses – in partnership with other stakeholders – to ensure that their operations contribute to creating a sustainable global agricultural system. Under current proposals the SABPs sets out six desired outcomes and the related actions that businesses should take.

There are a wide range of economic, social and environmental factors at play which currently contribute to an unsustainable agricultural system. What we grow, the way we grow it and how we bring it to market has a significant impact on the environment, food and energy security, livelihoods, development and human rights.

Agriculture is at the heart of many key environmental challenges; growing, producing and importing food contributes substantially to climate change, habitat and biodiversity loss, water use, and soil degradation. Socio-economic factors include greater competition for agriculture products as demand rises in emerging economies, land being lost to industrialisation or mining, disenchantment in rural livelihoods and labour leaving for the cities leaving farms shorthanded, or poor smallholder economics that leave farmers and their families impoverished. 

What would it take to transform our agricultural systems? Could we see in 2050 global systems for food, fuel and fibres that have a positive impact throughout the supply chain?

At twentyfifty Ltd we have been working with companies and within their global agricultural supply chains since 2004, supply chains which have often involved sourcing from smallholder farmers in countries and regions beset by conflict, poverty and inequality. We have helped companies to develop their leadership thinking, put organisation into place and implement changes to practice including developing effective multi-stakeholder governance for multi-year programmes addressing child labour, productivity and community development. We bring together the players that need to talk to each other, to listen to what is really needed, and to find solutions together.

We have been pleased to contribute to the Sustainable Agriculture Business Principles as part of the ‘Core Advisory Group’. In particular, we sought to encourage the group to recognise the importance of working with the whole system, the need to engage government and the opportunity to build on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The white paper on SABPs capturing the work of the advisory group can be viewed on line here. The paper now needs to be road tested with as many interested stakeholders as possible - especially if you have experience in the agricultural sector. We think it is an interesting read with potential to shape our world.  What do you think?