The Global Climate Action Summit brought together leaders and organisations from across sectors to celebrate extraordinary achievements in climate action and take ambition to the next level. The Summit was a launchpad for worldwide commitments and accelerated action from countries—supported by all sectors of society—that can put the globe on track to address climate change.

The Summit saw a wave of announcements and campaigns, selection of which are highlighted below.

The 30X30 Forests, Food and Land Challenge called on businesses, states, cities, local governments and global citizens to take action for better forest and habitat conservation, food production, consumption and land use, working together across all sectors of the economy to deliver up to 30% of the climate solutions needed by 2030.

Participants in the Summit emphasised that sustainable land use requires the recognition of indigenous people’s rights and local action. The Governor’s Climate and Forests (GCF) Task Force released guiding principles for Collaboration and Partnership between governments, indigenous people and local communities (read more here). Philanthropic organisations released a statement championing forests, indigenous peoples’ rights, and sustainable land use, committing to at least $459 million through 2022. (Read more here)

Several announcements were related to Transparent Supply Chains. The Cerrado Manifesto is a coalition of more than 100 food and financial companies, working together to halt deforestation and native vegetation loss in the Cerrado, Brazil. Walmart partnered with Unilever to identify high-risk jurisdictions and pledge to source palm oil, paper and pulp from jurisdictions with no deforestation. The Pro-Amazonia Initiative was announced by Ecuador’s Inter-institutional Committee on Sustainable Palm Oil to balance economic growth, productivity and forest conservation and preservation in Ecuador. (Read more here)

Key announcements for restoration programmes include the launch of Cities4Forests to help integrate forests and green infrastructure into urban areas. (Read more here) The Global Environment Facility (GEF) announced a financial commitment of $500m in new grants for food, land use and restoration projects. (Read more here)

The importance of ‘Climate Smart Eating’ was emphasised during The Summit. Including ‘The Cool Food Pledge’ will help signatories to track the climate impact of the food they serve and reduce emissions by 25% by 2030. (Read more here)

Forest, Food and Land Day

On 12th September, the Forest, Food and Land Challenge Coalition hosted a one-day event to showcase the essential role of food and land use systems in addressing climate change, with a range of discussions and talks at the Herbst Theatre. Hosted by Frances Seymour (Distinguished Senior Fellow, WRI) and Manuel Pulgar (Global Lead on Climate and Energy WWF), discussions  explored how food and land use can combat climate change, with a particular focus on the role of non-state actors and indigenous communities, investment opportunities, climate smart agriculture and reducing food waste.

As part of the day, the FOLU Coalition worked with members of the Challenge Coalition, including WWF, to arrange an armchair discussion on the role of business in driving systemic transformation of food and land use systems, featuring Barry Parkin (Chief Sustainability Officer and Procurement Lead, Mars), Christine Daugherty (VP Global Sustainable Agricultura  and Responsible Resourcing, PepsiCo) and FOLU Principal Jeremy Oppenheim (Founding Partner, SYSTEMIQ). Highlights from the session are outlined below.

 ‘We are sleepwalking our way into ecological collapse and a health disaster – and we know it. We need to acknowledge it and break the norm!’

– Jeremy Oppenheim

We must face the facts – efforts to halt destruction today are inadequate. Malnutrition – a result of either too little healthy food or too much poor-quality food – is a global pandemic.  Agricultural production is driving widespread natural capital destruction and weakening regenerative cycles.  This is deepening the rural poverty trap creating both chronic stress and heightened vulnerability to the multiple impacts of climate change. Leading businesses have a responsibility to build the economic case for action and lead by example. Discussants agreed that we urgently need to scale-up action to have meaningful impact: 600 organisations have made zero-deforestation commitments, yet global rates of deforestation remain the same as in 2010.

 “Where we want global impact, there must be local relevance. It is essential we develop locally relevant partnerships with farmers and other organisations on the ground to address the needs of that specific area.”

– Christine Daugherty

Alleviating smallholder farmer poverty is a moral obligation – and a business priority. As smallholder farms shrink below the point of cost-effective production, the implications for land-ownership restructuring, rural-urban migration and rural employment remain unclear, however there is a clear business risk that farmers will be compelled to leave agriculture for the cities. In addition, consumers are increasingly seeking reassurance that a fair share of the money they pay to food is going to the farmer, not snatched up by different interests along the supply chain. The panellists emphasised the importance of strengthening the rights and livelihoods of farmers in delivering system wide transformation of our food and land use systems.

Mars and PepsiCo have developed partnerships with local communities to strengthen connections with farmers and build trust. As a result, they are able to drive real change on the ground to improve sustainable farming practises and expand respect for workers human rights. (Mars – Livelihood Funds for Family Farming, PepsiCo – Sustainable Farming Programme)

“We must see materials as defined by physical, environmental and social attributes – not just as commodities”

– Barry Parkin

 Are we reaching the end of the commodity era? Barry Parkin emphasised the importance of aligning procurement with environmental and social parameters that support sustainable growth. Companies must move away from buying the ‘unknown’, driven primarily by low costs. Instead, they need to develop transparent long-term contracts that are built on trust and risk management to support resilient supply chains. Mars are building a new model for the cocoa supply chain through developing strong public-private partnerships involving clear regulations with monitoring and traceability techniques to ensure we recognise the value of cocoa, and not just as a commodity. Such a shift reflects the emotional and social power of food: companies that can show they source their products responsibly will benefit from greater consumer engagement and loyalty.

“The issues will not be solved by the magic of technology. We need very serious change. Big businesses like Mars and PepsiCo need to drive these changes by using their incredible marketing capabilities to produce healthy and nutritious food to build a world we want to see”

– Jeremy Oppenheim

Adaptive change is not enough: we need system transformation to address the faults in the food and land use system. Partnerships, commitments and technological innovation are supporting improvements in supply chains. But this is not enough. Jeremy Oppenheim challenged companies to integrate sustainability into their business strategy in a systematic way. Firstly, they can reallocate their Research and Development spend to develop and promote healthy and nutritious products available for everyone. Secondly, companies can shape demand in amazing ways: by deploying formidable marketing capabilities towards sustainability, they can become part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Finally, to drive systemic transformation, financial markets must also be transformed. Companies need to argue in favour of regulation and tough policy where incentives for good work are sharpened and externalities are properly costed.

The discussion highlighted that incremental change is not enough, we urgently need to transform our food and land use systems to address the imbalance and prevent further destructive behaviour. With systems-style thinking, businesses have a responsibility to lead the transformation using technology, innovation and investment to unlock opportunities across the whole value chain. No one company can transform the systems alone, business must collaborate with partners across all sectors and lead the movement for change.

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