18 Nov Corporate news
Sustainability is a concept which has taken root in political, business and social objectives and initiatives in recent years. What was initially a trend towards more responsible social behaviour has turned into a current and future necessity that will ensure people can continue to live together in a fairer, healthier world in which all citizens are guaranteed good quality of life.
Climate change and environmental degradation are compromising the future of the planet and its natural resources. In addition, they are putting at stake the health of all its inhabitants and the economic viability of many regions and activities.
Against this backdrop, the European Union has designed a strategy to make “Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. It maps a new, sustainable and inclusive growth strategy to boost the economy, improve people’s health and quality of life, care for nature, and leave no one behind” (Communication from the European Commission, A Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system).
Ultimately, the goal is a sustainable, inclusive Union in which the triad of nature, food system and biodiversity strike a balance that has a positive impact on the health of Europeans and the competitiveness of their businesses.
This roadmap is known as the Green Deal. It seeks to increase the sustainability of food systems as a cross-cutting measure to combat climate change, protect the environment and preserve biodiversity, ensure access to healthy food for all, increase organic farming and ensure fair economic returns throughout the food chain.
These objectives have given rise to the “Farm to Fork” strategy, a plan that aims to tackle the challenges of sustainable food systems and believes that there is a close relationship between healthy people, healthy societies and a healthy planet.
This approach has been bolstered by the health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19. As Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, points out, “The coronavirus crisis has shown how vulnerable we all are, and how important it is to restore the balance between human activity and nature” (From Farm to Fork, our food, our health, our planet, our future).
The EU believes that its citizens are already aware of and are committed to sustainable food. Therefore, it sees this ‘step forward’ as an opportunity to encourage people to choose a healthy, sustainable diet that will improve their quality of life and help the environment.
According to the European Commission, “People pay increasing attention to environmental, health, social and ethical issues and they seek value in food more than ever before. Even as societies become more urbanised, they want to feel closer to their food. They want food that is fresh, less processed and sustainably sourced”.
To meet growing demand, the agricultural industry will have to undergo radical transformation. Although Europe’s food system is already recognised worldwide for producing safe, nutritious, quality food, it must now evolve to make it sustainable as well.
The Commission explains that “Farm to Fork” seeks to reward operators in the food chain who have already moved towards sustainable practices and help the remainder make the transition.
The major changes facing agriculture include:
– Reducing pollution. Despite the fact that European agriculture has cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% since 1990, operations in the food chain contribute significantly to soil, air and water pollution and harm the environment.
– Optimising the use of pest control agents. By 2030, the Commission aims to reduce the use of these products by 50% and the use of fertilisers by 20%.
– Promoting organic farming. The Commission aims to have 25% of all agricultural land used for organic farming by 2030.
Europe is convinced that this transition cannot take place without a change in society and in people’s diets. Twenty percent of the food produced goes to waste and half of the adult population is overweight.
The Commission points out that “Overall, European diets are not in line with national dietary recommendations and the ‘food environment’ does not ensure that the healthy option is always the easiest one. If European diets were in line with dietary recommendations, the environmental footprint of food systems would be significantly reduced” (Communication from the European Commission, A Farm to Fork strategy for a fair, healthy, environmentally-friendly food system).
In addition, action must be taken to reverse the current situation and prevent the weakened economy from jeopardising food safety and the affordability of food. According to Eurostat, 33 million people in the EU today cannot afford a decent meal every two days and in many Member States food aid is a necessity for part of the population.