October 14, 2022

Delivering “the right food” improving climate, nutrition and equality

Emeline Fellus is Director of Food Reform for Sustainability and Health (FReSH) and Interim Director of One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B), two key projects of the Food and Agriculture Pathway of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

Ms Fellus, also a member of the WBCSD Extended Leadership Group, spoke to SIAL Daily about sustainability and the radical changes needed in the food industry to create a healthier and happier population and planet.

Sustainability has become something of a buzz word, what does it mean for you?
We hear about sustainability all the time and it means a lot of different things to different people – there’s the environmental side of sustainability and the social side of sustainability.
In economic terms, sustainability encompasses both, with environmental and social components which cover a diverse range of issues from soil preservation and diversity protection, to water use and human rights.
This is really complex and when it comes to nailing it down and actually implementing strategies for corporations and companies, we need to try and simplify it. So the WBCSD has identified three key imperatives to consider and these are equity, climate and nature.

Why is nutrition important in this context ?
Today, there are 870 million people worldwide living in hunger. That is one in 10 of us. And this number is only growing because of the economic crisis, climate change and of course the war in Ukraine. Furthermore, we have two billion people in the world who are overweight and among those, 650 million who are obese. All of these people suffer from malnutrition. So that’s the reason why it’s extremely urgent that we start delivering the right food to people, and it’s not just about calories but also the nutrients that are in food.

How are companies able to adapt? It must be an educational process.
Yes, absolutely. And when you talk about education, it isn’t only about educating consumers but also the policy makers.

In fact, last year for the very first time, the United Nations led a food systems summit which really connected the dots. It made people realise that when you talk about food, it’s not just about growing food and agriculture, it’s also about the nutrition and health of the people who come with it. It’s about the social conditions of the people who grow that food. There’s an important piece of teaching to be shared around the connection and the fact that there needs to be a more holistic approach.
For companies, they need to integrate nutrition as a KPI when they make decisions around procurement, and for consumers of course, they need to be looking at the nutritional values and the environmental score of the foods that they buy.

Finally, what message would you have for the food industry as a whole?
All of these pressing challenges are showing people that we cannot just sit and wait. We need to push to decarbonise – to have a more inclusive and equitable society, with consumers who are happy about what they’re being offered and the impact on the environment.
Another thing I would say is that incremental improvements are useful, but they’re not sufficient anymore. For example, we can improve nutrition through reformulation. We can reduce the levels of salt, sugar and fat – that’s great, it saves lives. However, we also need to shift radically and we need companies to invent new products that deliver much better nutrition and we won’t be able to do that just by reformulating.

Emeline Fellus, Director at FReSH and Member of the Extended Leadership Group at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) talks to SIAL Daily about the importance of nutrition within a sustainable food system and the radical changes companies will need to make if we’re to create a more equitable, more sustainable and healthier planet for future generations. Working together, she says, we can achieve long term goals for the benefit of everyone.