World Wildlife Fund Sustainability Works

Better business for a better Earth

At World Wildlife Fund, we believe deeply in the private sector’s ability to drive positive environmental change. WWF Sustainability Works is a forum for discussion around strategies, commitments, technologies and more that will help businesses achieve conservation goals that are good for the planet and their bottom lines. Follow WWF Sustainability Works on twitter at @WWFBetterBiz.

filtered by category: Food and Agriculture

  • Date: 09 July 2024
  • Author: Julia Kurnik, Senior Director, Innovation Startups, Markets

Healthy diets are essential, yet only a small percentage of Americans consume the daily recommended servings of vegetables. Part of the problem is access. Millions of Americans, both in predominantly minority, urban communities, and in poorer, rural areas without major grocery chains, lack access to nutritious foods.

The problem isn’t a shortage of food. We grow plenty. But up to 40% of fresh produce grown in the US is wasted. Another real difficulty is that connections between local farmers and consumers, already broken, have split even further in recent years due to supply chain disruptions and market shifts. As a result, consumers struggle nutritionally, while small farmers struggle financially and are often forced to take off-farm jobs.

To bridge this gap, the Markets Institute at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) began to explore ways of establishing a direct connection — known as Farmers Post — between consumers and nearby farmers. We’re working with the United States Postal Service (USPS) to explore allowing consumers to have fresh produce delivered to their door. This would offer a new, and welcome, revenue stream for the USPS, which has struggled with tightening budgets in recent years, making use of its distribution expertise and its unique access to all households in the US.

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  • Date: 26 June 2024
  • Author: Katherine Devine, Director, Business Case Development

Conservation efforts often face complex challenges that a single organization can't tackle alone. When a group of several major hotel chains wanted to drive measurable reduction of food waste in the hospitality sector in the U.S., for example, several companies created a pre-competitive pilot, called Hotel Kitchen, focused on food waste prevention, donation, and diversion from landfills. These types of groups, highlighted in a new WWF report, bring together diverse players in supply or value chains, from companies to NGOs and producers to researchers, to work on shared goals, which often include environmental impacts or, more directly, conservation objectives.

WWF's experience in launching and participating in such platforms suggests that no one-size-fits-all model dictates success of a precompetitive or multistakeholder group. But successful ones share some key characteristics. And there are lessons to be learned as well from initiatives that have run into roadblocks. Here are some characteristics that make them successful, illustrate pitfalls to avoid, and demonstrate how to maximize their impact.

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  • Date: 04 June 2024
  • Author: Julia Kurnik

Our food supply chain is facing critical pressures and an uncertain future. California produces more than two-thirds of the fruits and nuts grown in the US and nearly half of all its vegetables. But due to climate change, water availability, and other factors, depending on California for all that food is increasingly unsustainable.

More than a decade ago, WWF’s Markets Institute identified this growing uncertainty in domestic food production as both a challenge and an opportunity. We set out to find “the next California,” a place to build a sustainable and equitable commercial-level specialty crop industry. We settled on the Mid-Mississippi Delta (western Tennessee, northwestern Mississippi, and eastern Arkansas) as a spot that could ease the pressure on California, avoid converting natural lands to farmland elsewhere in the country, and create an equitable engine of local growth.

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  • Date: 09 May 2024
  • Author: Emily Moberg

This is the third in a series of blog posts on carbon accounting standards. The first post provided an overarching explanation of carbon accounting and its inherent challenges. The second post examined variability in companies’ “Scope 3” emissions—that is, emissions that originate from upstream and downstream activities, which often constitute 90% or more of companies’ emissions. Here we discuss factors behind the variability of emissions across farms and regions.

The variability in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per unit of product across the agricultural sector is striking, even when comparing identical products. Understanding this variability is crucial, particularly when assessing the complexities of supply chains. This variability manifests at multiple scales—from individual farms to regions—and significantly impacts both corporate strategy and policy formulation.

At the farm level, differences in emissions can be profound, even among neighboring farms that are both practicing conventional agriculture. For instance, two farms growing the same row crops can exhibit up to a twofold difference in emissions. Similar variability exists in aquaculture, where shrimp production emissions can vary by as much as five times. These discrepancies are often due to the efficiency of input use, influenced by factors such as soil quality, farmer skill, and local weather conditions. Such variability within a farm itself can result in certain areas being more profitable than others.

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  • Date: 03 April 2024

When we scrape the remains of our dinner plates into the garbage or toss out food that has gone bad in our refrigerators we often think about the social or financial impact of that wasted food. But there is an important environmental connection to food loss and waste that we need to consider as well. When we waste food, the energy used to produce and transport that food also gets wasted. So, if we stop food waste, we can help combat climate change in a big way. In fact, reducing food waste can help reduce about 6-8% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

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  • Date: 10 March 2024
  • Author: Ellen Dierenfeld, Lead Specialist, Sustainable Feed Innovation

Many years and another lifetime ago, I headed up the Department of Wildlife Nutrition for the St. Louis Zoo. One day I received a call from the head of a group called “Carpbusters,” who organized bow and fishing tournaments throughout the region to rid the rivers of invasive carp. Sportsmen paid fees to join the festivities, enjoyed their luck with feisty fish, and were awarded prizes for various categories of daily catch.

The lack of a proper outlet for the extracted fish, however, bothered the leaders of this conservation effort as thousands of pounds of high-quality protein rotted on the riverbanks after each weekend. Would the zoo be able to utilize carp for feeding fish-eating species? was the query. They could be delivered fresh and intact, as a free donation.

It was an excellent idea. As with most animal operations, feed costs comprised the largest portion of management, and the annual fish budget was high. If we could make a dent in the budget for feeding endangered species, while at the same time contributing to eradication of invasive species that threatened natives and their habitats, it would be a win-win for conservation.

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  • Date: 06 March 2024
  • Author: Danny Miller, Lead Specialist, Aquaculture, WWF

You are what you eat – or, more precisely, you are what you’re eating has eaten. Corn, for example, is so present in the diet and processing of the cows, chickens, and other animals eaten by Americans that the author Michael Pollan, in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” quotes one researcher who calls us “corn chips with legs.”

For companies that produce animal proteins – the beef, fish, and fowl that make up so much of our dinner menus – knowing what is in animal feed is a key to knowing whether their animals are getting the right nutrients.

But there’s a surprising little secret in that world: most livestock and aquaculture producers don’t know the sources, much less the practices, associated with the production of ingredients in the feed that they give their animals.

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  • Date: 12 February 2024
  • Author: Sam Wildman, Senior Program Officer, Animal Ag Systems

The US Round Table for Sustainable Poultry and Eggs (US-RSPE) gathered 65 industry leaders, experts, and stakeholders in November 2023 for their annual meeting. This pivotal conference aimed to propel the sector’s sustainability efforts by addressing critical issues within the poultry and egg supply chains and creating a collaborative atmosphere for workshopping shared challenges.

In 2018, WWF was a founding member of the US-RSPE, in part because of the need to encourage market transformation towards sustainable intensification and the need for continuous improvement at speed and scale yet seen. The roundtable has evolved to not only be the thought leader on the sector’s continuous improvement, but to be a space for leaders to collaborate and advance action on shared challenges across the pillars of people, planet, and poultry.

The meeting encouraged and facilitated rich discussion across all three pillars of poultry and egg sustainability – people, planet, and poultry. Robert Bonnie, USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation shared his optimistic perspective of the industry’s progress and opportunities, followed by timely discussions on how to advance the impact each organization has associated with biosecurity and bird health, effective workforce development strategies, and poultry feed sustainability.

Executive Director of US-RSPE, Ryan Bennett, expressed enthusiasm about the outcomes of the meeting, stating, "November was a chance for us to provide the resources and knowledge for the poultry sector to go into 2024 ready to support and change the conversation about poultry sustainability."

The meeting served as a platform to set the course for the organization's growth with the release of a new strategic plan, building on the success of the member-driven metrics framework and its impact on the poultry and egg sector.

A significant achievement highlighted at the conference was the current progress on the Roundtable Framework Tool, the first-ever sustainability assessment tool designed specifically for the poultry and egg industry. With a year of implementation behind them and having met past strategic objectives, US-RSPE is aiming to scale further, supporting the sector's growth and sustainability.

As the Framework continues to be a game changer, Bennett emphasized the organization's commitment to increasing awareness and expanding support to drive positive change within the industry. The US-RSPE annual meeting has proven to be essential for those dedicated to advancing sustainable practices within the poultry and egg sector.

  • Date: 12 February 2024
  • Author: Pete Pearson, Senior Director, Food Loss & Waste

This is a call to all those scrambling to finish their strategies for the Climate Pollution Reduction Grants. Commonly known as CPRG, this EPA program will soon provide $4.6 billion to states, local governments, tribes, and territories to build and unleash ambitious plans for slashing greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollution.

No doubt cities and states nationwide are working in overdrive to drop their Priority Climate Action Plans, or PCAPs, by March 1, gearing up for competitive funding to bring their initiatives to life. Last December, NRDC published a call for action, making a case that adding food waste projects will make the CPRG applications more competitive. Already leading the charge are Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Oregon, throwing down the gauntlet with food waste in their playbook. New Jersey held extensive workshops and community building sessions that looked at food waste.

These climate action blueprints are going to be important. Every state and city must tackle food waste. With CPRG grants in play, there’s a rare opportunity for action since waste systems are controlled by city and state governments and typically require policy and government funding to fix. The proposals must show real climate impact and scalability.

Unfortunately, many climate proposals still fail to address the crisis of food waste, the single largest item in trash. In the US alone, growing food that is wasted generates 170 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, equivalent to those of 42 coal-fired power plants. And that’s not even counting methane emissions from food waste rotting in landfills. Landfills rank third in US methane emissions. Global agriculture devours 40% of the world’s land and 70% of its freshwater and emits one third of global greenhouse gas emissions.

But food waste is more than an environmental issue. World Wildlife Fund estimates that 40% of the world’s food is either lost on farms or tossed away in restaurants, grocery stores, schools, and home kitchens while 780 million of us go to bed hungry. We must revolutionize our food systems to feed more people without wrecking the planet. Cutting down on food waste can be a powerhouse for slashing methane, supporting farmers, and boosting local communities.

Thankfully, there are coalitions and state toolkits available today that can be adapted and scaled. For example, California’s Senate Bill 1383 sets methane reduction targets by curbing disposal of organic waste in landfills. It aims to ensure that edible food is recovered, food scraps are composted, compost is purchased by cities, and that inedible food can be used for industries and animal feed.

Climate action plans aren't one-size-fits-all. What works in one state might not cut it in another. But the silver lining lies in the fact that as cities and states work to address food waste, they can tap into a shared treasure trove of best practices and amplify solutions.

So last call. If your PCAP isn’t shouting “Food Waste!” I suggest you add it immediately. Of course, things like energy and transportation are important, but the picture isn’t complete without regenerative and waste-free food systems.

Pete Pearson is senior director of food waste at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Washington, D.C., where WWF works together with the Zero Food Waste Coalition.

  • Date: 29 January 2024
  • Author: Jason Clay, Executive Director, Markets Institute at WWF

Each year the Markets Institute at WWF releases a list of potential emerging developments that will affect the global food system and will be important for producers, consumers, the private sector, and governments to consider. The topics are identified through research, interviews, data analysis, gleanings from others, and especially through discussions with the Markets Institute’s Thought Leader Group. Here is a condensed version of our full report. As always, we welcome feedback, so please get in touch.

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