Sustainable food and land use could create $4.5tn in investment returns

The Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU) has released The Global Consultation Report for 2019, outlining analysis of current and potential land and food use trends and costs. The report makes estimates on the cost of the continuation of current practices in the coming decades, and compares these with the potential gains from emerging business opportunities, predicting that the benefit of making the transition toward worldwide sustainable land and food use could be valued at $4.5tn. These transitions could also bring the world much closer to sustainability goals.

The report lists 10 critical transitions that would contribute to bringing global emissions to net zero, reducing land degradation, and improving public health and food security:

1. Transitions to healthier diets with more plant-based foods and less sugar, salt and processed food consumption.
2. Sustainable agricultural practices incorporating traditional farming techniques like controlled grazing systems and agroforestry with sustainable farming technology.
3. Reforestation and nature protection efforts.
4. Sustainable fishing and underwater habitat protection.
5. Development of diversified protein sources including aquatic, plant-based, insect-based and laboratory-cultured proteins.
6. Reduction of food waste.
7. Promotion of sustainable urban food economies.
8. Digitisation of food and land use systems to allow consumers and producers more access to information.
9. Increased productivity and resource and electricity access in rural economies.
10. Promotion of gender equality in the sector in terms of access to resources, healthcare and decision-making positions.

The report claims that these transitions will only be possible through significant government, philanthropic and business investments and policy changes. While the proposed investment in these 10 transitions is significant, the report predicts a return of 15 times the original investment, bringing the estimated figure to $4.5tn in investment returns by 2030. These returns would come from new business opportunities in sustainable agriculture, food production and distribution markets. Jeremy Oppenheim, a co-author of the report, has said that this analysis “proves for the first time that it is possible, indeed economically attractive, to feed nine billion people with nutritious diets within planetary boundaries and to do so in a way that is good for rural communities”.

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