World Wildlife Fund Sustainability Works

filtered by category: Supply Chain Management

  • Date: 13 July 2021
  • Author: Karla Canavan, VP, Commodity Trade and Finance, Katherine Devine, Director of Business Case Development, WWF

Before net-zero commitments became all the rage, companies were pledging to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. Deforestation and habitat conversion are powerful contributors to climate change, accounting for about 15% or more of global GHG emissions. Despite increasing numbers of commitments and a decade of effort in some cases, companies have struggled to achieve them. It’s not surprising; there are many complex issues in supply chains that could contribute to deforestation and conversion. These range from multiple direct and indirect suppliers, lack of traceability, lack of government support, fluctuating market forces—such as increasing global demand from China, and more. Nevertheless, addressing the challenge of taking deforestation and conversion out of global supply chains (Deforestation- and Conversion-Free, or DCF) can not wait.

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  • Date: 28 June 2021
  • Author: Katherine Devine, Director of Business Case Development, WWF

The COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to shape the future of food systems for many years to come. The question, though, is how? While many countries and businesses are still in or emerging from survival mode, others have the resources to invest in a food system future with sustainability at its core. The reality is that you cannot separate the two—sustainability will enable survival for companies moving forward. It’s been said that COVID-19 is a dress rehearsal for future disruptions, particularly those related to climate change. Now is the time to prepare for what comes next.

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  • Date: 27 January 2021
  • Author: Katherine Devine, Director of Business Case Development, WWF

The Possibility Is Closer than You Might Think


Many large companies have made environmental commitments to reduce embedded greenhouse gas emissions in the products they make or sell, yet are struggling to reach them. Scope 3 emissions pose a particular set of challenges—all the indirect emissions that occur both up and downstream in a company’s value chain, including from primary production, such as those emitted while producing milk on dairy farms. Within the food industry, supply chains are complex, with many ingredients going into diverse product portfolios. The dairy industry’s Net Zero Initiative¹ (NZI) has established the goal of reaching net zero GHG emissions by 2050 and has set a bold agenda to achieve this goal. Recent analysis conducted by The Markets Institute @ World Wildlife Fund—based on assumptions and data shared by stakeholders in the dairy industry—demonstrates that achieving net zero for large farms is possible with the right practices, incentives, and policies within five years. If businesses also step up to make investments and collaborate with dairy farmers in their supply chain, the potential to reach these goals can become even more tangible.

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  • Date: 17 December 2020
  • Author: Katherine Devine, Director of Business Case Development, WWF

Due to supply chain disruptions as a result of COVID-19, many brands are reducing the diversity of product offerings via stock keeping units, or SKUs. General Mills’ corporate communications manager explained to CNN, "If you think about our Progresso Soup portfolio, we have nearly 90 [varieties], and within those we likely have several varieties of Chicken Noodle. Right now, our consumers and our retailers likely don't need the flavor variations so we're minimizing the variety we are making.” In 2020, consumers anxiously filling their pantries led to stockouts, and it became challenging for brands to forecast available supply of complex product lines. While this reduction in diverse product offerings may mean fewer choices for consumers in the store or online, it can actually be a good thing. The more SKUs a company offers, the harder it is to respond to disruptions. In addition to preventing issues with day-to-day business operations, streamlining SKUs can enable companies to reorient their strategies to meet environmental goals, as well as save them money.

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  • Date: 20 October 2020
  • Author: Kerry Cesareo, Senior Vice President, Forests, World Wildlife Fund

Clearer public-private pathways are putting us on the right track

The end of 2020 marks a crossroads that is both deeply worrying and quite exciting. Deforestation and conversion of natural ecosystems continue unabated, with 3.8 million hectares of tropical primary forest lost in 2019—a 2.8% increase from the previous year. Wildfires rage from the Amazon to the Arctic, and the recent Living Planet Report released by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) shows an average 68% decrease in population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish in less than 50 years. Deforestation is enabling more human-animal contact and raising the chances of new pandemics spilling over to humans; it also continues to be a primary driver of climate change, creating a vicious cycle.

Concurrently, conservation and restoration of forests, and nature more broadly, have been elevated on the global agenda. Forests are included in the Paris Agreement and in the land-based carbon targets of many countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions. And, building from the experiences of REDD+, governments at the national and subnational level in many key commodity-producing regions are translating these ambitions into action by providing leadership in place-based, multistakeholder efforts to address deforestation and conversion. Increasingly, governments and the business community are engaging with each other. Ghana, for instance, has created action plans with cocoa buyers to address deforestation. In Indonesia, the National Action Plan for Sustainable Palm Oil is providing a structure around which palm oil companies can coordinate their forest protection and restoration efforts in line with government strategies.

Meanwhile, the business case for far more expansive action to protect nature has become obvious. Nature loss is no longer just an issue of reputational risk—it threatens the future of commodity supply and the jobs linked with raw material production. Forest loss is damaging soil quality while changing weather patterns are reducing yields of planted crops. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2020 ranked biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse among the top five threats the global economy will face in the next 10 years.

The private sector has taken notice and begun to evolve its sustainability ambitions to match the scale of the challenge confronting nature. Over the last decade, much of the business community committed to eliminate deforestation from its commodity sourcing, and the Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) and Collaboration for Forests and Agriculture (CFA) have created best-practice guidance to support implementation. More recently, leading companies have begun to align with government and other actors in producing regions on strategies that go beyond individual supply chains to address underlying drivers of nature loss. Several important platforms like the Consumer Goods Forum and Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA) are helping to mainstream expectations that the public and private sectors should collaborate through landscape and jurisdictional initiatives.

This trend is encouraging, but the overall number of companies engaging in these scaled efforts remains low. Major barriers have included uncertainty around the business case for multistakeholder collaboration and a dearth of clear examples to follow. There is also misalignment between the sort of actions civil society is asking companies to undertake and the sustainability practices for which companies are currently recognized and rewarded.

But barriers to engagement are coming down. Over the past year, a group of organizations has developed a suite of new tools and guidance to enable broader company engagement in production geographies where they are invested or exposed. Whereas AFi and CFA provide the key guidance for implementing deforestation/conversion-free commitments within supply chains, these new tools elaborate complementary guidance for addressing systemic drivers. They pull from concrete examples to help companies understand and navigate through their options to engage. And thoughtful collaborations have positioned these tools to be reasonably aligned, thus avoiding the pitfalls of conflicting guidance from civil society.

  • A new paper from the United Nations Development Program, Value Beyond Value Chains, clarifies why and broadly how companies can engage in landscape and jurisdictional initiatives. It explains the business case for collaborating beyond value chains at landscape, subnational, and national levels to help create the enabling conditions for sustainable production and provides broad schemas to help companies think about how to engage in multistakeholder initiatives in producer countries.
  • A complementary paper from Proforest, Engaging with Landscape Initiatives, fleshes out the how and adds guidance on where to engage. It walks through steps companies should take when thinking about how to engage in landscapes, describing elements of the engagement process like building trust, planning and implementing interventions, and monitoring of progress. And it helps companies understand their supply base, how to prioritize landscapes for engagement, and decide which initiatives they might work with.
  • A resource that Walmart recently launched provides more granularity on the question of where to engage, providing maps that show the jurisdictions where companies are likeliest to source key deforestation-risk commodities and the deforestation risk of these jurisdictions.
  • Building on these tools, TFA released a set of corporate guidance and a dynamic web-based tool developed by WWF and Proforest that goes the next step in describing what specific actions companies can implement to advance landscape and jurisdictional initiatives. It provides concrete interventions companies can take, offers real-world examples where companies are already doing so, and proposes guidance on how to execute.
  • Each of the previous tools informs corporate action. New guidance from ISEAL Alliance on Verification of Jurisdictional Claims lays out the parameters for assuring progress at the landscape/jurisdictional scale and for making credible claims about contributions toward that progress. It walks through practical steps to ensure the integrity of landscape-level performance data and how progress is communicated, and it explores the types of claims companies can make depending on the ways they engage.

While time is running out to reverse global ecosystem loss, we’re finally at a point where governments and companies are beginning to mobilize at the scale required to meet our conservation imperatives. Thanks to this new guidance, the pathways for corporate action are clearer than ever. Now, with these tools in hand, the moment has come for public-private partners to accelerate their joint efforts—for the future of the natural world and generations to come.

  • Date: 22 June 2020
  • Author: Jason Clay, SVP, Markets

Finding the right balance between food imports and domestic production will continue to be a challenge as COVID-19 disrupts supply chains and governments want to ensure that food will be available for their citizens. Trade is an essential part of any sustainable food system. There will be pandemics, droughts, and plagues of locusts in any given year, and unfortunately, like now, sometimes all in the same year. Trade helps the global food system fill in the cracks created by disruptive individual or multiple events, regardless of their origin, that may lead to localized rolling hunger across a landscape.

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  • Date: 16 June 2020
  • Author: Corey Norton, VP, Supply Chain Legality, Jason Clay, SVP, Markets

One of the less-publicized COVID-related threats to the environment is the inadequate response to reports that almost 200,000 crew on cargo shipping vessels cannot go home despite completing their voyage. These cargo vessel crew are stuck onboard and cannot be relieved by a new crew due to widespread travel restrictions. Almost all world trade is shipped via these vessels, which when operating with fatigued crew increasingly risk collisions and other accidents, which can cause fuel spills, cargo lost overboard, and other significant harm to oceans and surrounding environments.

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  • Date: 19 February 2020
  • Author: David Schorr, Senior Manager, Transparent Seas, WWF

Changing any complex system requires finding a point of maximum leverage. When it comes to creating transparency in the seafood trade, access to reliable information is the key, and there are two points of leverage to make it happen: getting companies around the world to agree on what data is needed, and ensuring they can share it seamlessly .

Affordable and reliable traceability—the concept of tracking seafood from bait to plate—depends on fishers and aquaculture farmers routinely providing verifiable data. One way to achieve that vision is for governments to require this information as a routine part of access to markets. But currently there is no global agreement on what information must accompany seafood products. In fact, a new study from a consortium of NGOs analyzed the key data elements required in the top three seafood markets—US, EU and Japan—which are responsible for nearly two thirds of all seafood imports. It found that even governments with the most robust import regulations don’t fully capture all of the data needed to ensure that the fish bought by consumers is coming from legal sources.

That’s where the considerable leverage of market leaders in industry comes in. WWF has been working with seafood companies around the world to develop urgently needed standards for capturing and sharing a consistent set of basic information based on shared industry-wide expectations.

Seafood is one of the most globalized of all food commodities, with supply chains that crisscross oceans and continents. While this global web of production allows coastal communities to sell their seafood products into important international markets--and gives consumers access to seafood from every corner of the planet--there are risks and new responsibilities for businesses. Traceability systems can mitigate these risks and provide benefits to public health, social welfare, and environmental sustainability. But only if those systems can communicate seamlessly via globally established standards. Businesses have a stake in enabling that to happen.

The first step is for companies to agree on what information needs to be shared. Key Data Elements, known as KDEs, are imperative for establishing reporting requirements at critical stages of production and trade. These can work hand-in-hand with government reporting requirements and trade controls, as well as with systems for data collection needed for sustainable resource management. Having the right KDEs is also what generates value in the form of consumer and brand confidence.

In fact, getting industry-wide agreement on KDEs is one key part of a new set of industry-led standards that are about to start reshaping the way businesses do seafood traceability. As highlighted in an open letter recently released by a group of seafood industry leaders, these groundbreaking standards include a ‘basic universal list’ of standardized seafood KDE’s that will set a global baseline for the information that should accompany all seafood products. These new standards, about to be released at a major seafood industry trade show in Boston this March, have been developed by industry through the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability, or GDST for short. The GDST 1.0 standards are the data-sharing foundation on which reliable, affordable, and efficient seafood traceability will be built.

Not only does GDST 1.0 provide a universal check-list of the information that must accompany seafood products, it sets out technical specifications for how systems share that information seamlessly. These technical standards are already being road tested by leading seafood supply chain companies, including some of the world’s biggest seafood processors, brand owners, and retailers. For the companies involved, it’s not just a matter of meeting CSR goals – these system design standards are helping address core business functions, and ensuring better return on investment when companies upgrade their traceability systems.

The ocean provides a bounty of seafood, supporting hundreds of millions of jobs and feeding billions of people. Creating seafood supply chain transparency creates accountability and provides the data needed for improved science-based management of fisheries and aquaculture farms. This mix of sustainability and business strategy is a powerful lever for driving change in the complex world of seafood trade and when GDST 1.0 launches this March during the North American Seafood Expo, industry will be one step closer to sustaining the future of the seafood industry.

  • Date: 09 January 2020
  • Author: Jason Clay

The Markets Institute at WWF identifies global issues and emerging trends around the most pressing challenges of our time to help us all learn and shift faster. As always, we'll be tracking a wide variety of food and soft commodity issues, trends, and tools as we move into 2020, dubbed the super-year for the environment. We know we will see more political volatility and financial crises, and the impacts of climate change to not only be felt more deeply but also recognized for what they are—a ticking time bomb for the future so long as they are not addressed. Here are just a few of the other issues, trends and tools we will be tracking this year:

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  • Date: 01 January 2019
  • Author: Jason Clay, SVP Markets, Exec Director of the Markets Institute

The Markets Institute at WWF identifies global issues, trends, and tools around the most pressing challenges of our time. Each year we release a list of what we see as the top emerging industry developments that may not be apparent to help stakeholders stay ahead of the curve, and to help us all shift faster.

The lists are identified through research, interviews, data analysis, and discussions with our Thought Leader Group. Here are the top issues, trends, and tools to keep an eye on in 2019:

ISSUES

Normalization of hate and racism

There is an increase in the acceptance of hate and racism globally, but most notably of all in the US. When those in power are guilty of such actions it empowers everyone with similar feelings to speak out openly and, all too often, aggressively. This polarizes societies. Historically such episodes have been more frequent during periods of economic uncertainty. As groups blame others for their plight, if they have power, they will use existing institutions to enforce their views. However, at least in the US, it is now likely that this will become a flashpoint, as those preaching hate are in the minority, and issues will boil over if sparked.

Animal protein is the new coal

There is some evidence that animal protein is becoming the new coal. Several donors, NGOs, and researchers are attacking animal protein from a variety of perspectives including animal welfare, environmental impacts, and human health. The EAT/Lancet Report will further polarize the issue as many around the world will look at the research behind the report as biased and selected to push a particular type of diet without understanding why people eat what they do much less the role different proteins, nutrients and minerals play in diets as well as the tradeoffs. But mostly people don’t like to be told what to eat, especially not by the privileged.

EU will act on global deforestation

The EU will begin to act against deforestation at a governmental and trade level. There are a few issues that will likely inform this discussion before all is said and done. For many in the global South, EU countries have deforested for millennia—there is very little old-growth forest left—so this move will be seen as hypocrisy at best or at worst the global South will be “paying for” the GHG emissions of the global North. Taking illegal deforestation off the table is simple and WTO compliant. Taking all deforestation out of trade is more problematic. It is difficult to understand how such a trade policy would be WTO compliant given that the PPM (production, processing, and manufacturing) mechanism does not allow countries to discriminate against products based on how they are produced. The issue is likely to be even more complicated because many EU countries have forests and other natural habitat that might become suitable for food production as climate change shifts things North.

Wealth & conspicuous consumption

Wealth has probably been around for as long as people. Prized possessions have been found in burials after tens of thousands of years. However, as societies evolved and became more sedentary—as well as differentiated and stratified—wealth became associated with different groups. Today, as global incomes are rising, most people can have more wealth than previous generations. What is happening now, however, is that wealth and conspicuous consumption are coming together—people are what they have. This is leading to consumption that drives others who see it to consume more. We need to find meaning in our lives other than the acquisition of things.

Economic growth as THE issue

You manage what you measure. Economic growth has become the single indicator of global prosperity. But, despite strong economic growth for some time, far too many still live in poverty. The management model doesn’t seem to be working, and the price is to clear—depletion of natural resources, the stubborn maintenance of malnutrition, and the wealth gap widening in most countries. The planet and the poor cannot afford too many more decades like the last ones. We need to delink prosperity from economic growth, or, put another way, have prosperity that doesn’t leave so many behind? As long as economic growth measures only productivity, output, and profit—with no accounting for natural resources, poverty, malnourishment, and human rights, or everyone’s ability to achieve their potential—then we are measuring the wrong things.

TRENDS

Declining political influence of the West

There has been a noticeable decline in the roles played by both the US and the EU politically as well as economically. In part this is due to specific leaders, but it is also part of a backlash against global systems and undue influence of so few at the expense of others. There are far more bi-lateral negotiations now than global ones about politics, security, trade, and even environmental issues. This will continue, especially through South to South negotiations.

Shift of ag biotech to the Mississippi

While the undisputed global tech leader is still Silicon Valley and the Bay Area more generally, there is currently a lot of investment in the US Midwest, especially in the Mississippi River Valley in cities such as St. Louis, Memphis, and Kansas City. However, these regions have a long way to go to catch up with the work, particularly in genetics, at UC-Davis and UC-Berkeley, and no less so then global leader Beijing Genomic Institute in China.

Freshwater grows scarcer

There are already a couple of dozen countries experiencing chronic freshwater shortages. This is likely to worsen with more people, more demands on water sources, unpredictable impact of climate change and weather variability on water availability. We are going to have to get better at recharging aquifers as well as capturing and storing freshwater from homes and cities to the country level as well. We are going to have to cut the total water used to produce food (which should be relatively easy as so much irrigation water is wasted), as well as be more efficient in personal and industrial water use. As water scarcity mounts, the value will go up, and this will drive efficiency.

Global conversations about diet get uglier

Nobody likes to be told what they should eat. Global conversations about diet have become galvanized around the idea of healthy parameters for both people and planet, especially in countries where food security is not perceived to be an issue. There is an increasing chasm in the discussions between the "haves" vs. the "have nots" in the global food system. As the science evolves, we need to ensure that both issues are addressed—how those without access to food and nutrition can get it, as well as determining the more sustainable and affordable nutrient sources for people and the planet. Changes in food values are shifting the debate's focus from production to consumption.

Climate migration

In retrospect, many see the migrations out of the Middle East and North Africa into Europe as the first mass migrations that resulted from climate change. For others, it was smallholders in Central America who were forced to flee their farms because they no longer produced enough coffee or corn to feed their families. Climate-induced migration has already begun, and it will continue in virtually every part of the planet, though it may often be attributed to other causes. We will need to address displacement and food security while we are addressing climate change.

TOOLS

Green bonds for reforestation

Green bonds are instruments recognized by organizations from the World Bank to private financial entities, corporations, pension funds, and governments as a tool that can be issued to finance projects or activities that have a positive impact on climate or the environment. Most green bonds are structurally identical to more conventional bonds, but they are distinguished by the green uses they are put to, e.g. green infrastructure, renewable energy, rehabilitation of degraded land for farming, reforestation, regenerative agricultural practices, etc. They also have generally the same ratings as the entities that issue them.

Fake news goes mainstream

The old adage, trust but verify, has never been truer. It is hard to trust anything that is heard firsthand without first verifying it, but verification is also getting harder. Presumably, freedom of speech and freedom of the press gives one the right to speak or publish without fear of being censored, but it does not abdicate the responsibility of knowing that what you are printing holds true. When the untruths and distortions affect elections, public policies, institutions, health, and safety or target specific groups for persecution we know this tool has been weaponized. As global as we have become, most people get their information from family and friends who all get it from the internet and social media. In the past the media had fact checkers. Social media use algorithms, but they are not working.

Machine learning and AI—tools to separate signal from noise, smoke from fire

There is considerable evidence that machine learning can be applied to many different parts of the economy and greatly improve overall management, and they will start to take the food system by storm—from producers to consumers. Two question questions come up very quickly: 1) Who owns the data; 2) will some of the poorest producers and rural laborers benefit from machine learning or be displaced by it? It’s a pity that one of the global trends isn’t increased public spending for education in farming and rural communities. If that happened more people would have other options and not as many would be forced to make their living from farming.

It's time to work more collaboratively in making tech help us all learn more quickly about how reducing impacts in ag. Smartphones to train farmers, get them access to finance, collect and share data, reduce waste, and share farm equipment. Farmers can now time their delivery to process plants to reduce waste and obtain higher prices. We need to adapt or create similar tools and learning systems for carbon management and measurement, risk management, traceability, and transparency along the entire value chain, not just where it is easiest.

Emissions incentives for producers

In 2018, awareness about the role of agriculture, forestry, and land use in climate change began to pick up steam. How will conversations on food systems and land use as both contributors to and solutions for the climate crisis continue to evolve? How will the impacts of extreme weather and climate change on agriculture affect our ability to feed everyone in a world of increasing nationalism and protectionism? One thing is for sure, we need more carrots and fewer sticks if we are to find voluntary ways to reduce GHG emissions and sequester carbon in the food system. Low cost food comes at a high price to both producers and the planet.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative

China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a food and resource security strategy dressed up as a global development program. It’s clear China is using development assistance to line up access to a supply of farmland and natural resources for decades to come. In addition to the infrastructure, China is using 99-year leases on land to farm where farming has never happened (e.g. the grasslands of Inner Asia). While this is smart for China, is it smart for the countries and the businesses that are the beneficiaries of this global strategy? Only time will tell—but it is certainly worth watching as this strategy unfolds.

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Stay tuned for what else we see this year, and help us keep an eye on the horizon.

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