Climate change and its impact on global food security generated loud buzz at this year’s Fortune Brainstorm Green conference in Laguna Niguel, CA — from Richard Branson’s keynote address Monday to Conservation International CEO Peter Seligmann’s closing remarks yesterday.
How can we feed a population that will grow to more than 9 billion in the next few decades? More urgently, how do we deal with the impact that erratic weather patterns have had on crops and food prices this past year? Droughts and flooding across the world have severely affected agricultural output, and resulting increases in food prices have driven millions into extreme poverty across the developing world.
Meeting participants included leaders in sustainability from the business, government and NGO sectors. We discussed some of the specific challenges, including the need to reduce waste in the supply chain, to increase agricultural yields on existing croplands, and to set aside parts of the landscape that generate critical ecosystem services such as freshwater provision, pollination and carbon sequestration.
Some of the world’s largest companies showcased the work they are doing to address these challenges. In Africa, Coca-Cola has deepened its relationship with local producers of agricultural products and helped them access markets more efficiently. Sodexo is trying to educate its food service clientele and introduce healthier items in an effort to reduce inputs and waste. DuPont talked about the importance of technology in continuing to drive improvements in agricultural yields.
In his closing remarks, Peter Seligmann underscored the importance of looking at agricultural production and ecosystems in a holistic way — to make sure that we are thinking about how to conserve the healthy soils, pollinators and fresh water that farmers need.
Andrew Wilson is the vice president of corporate relations in CI’s Center for Environmental Leadership in Business (CELB).