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: WWF Markets Institute

  • 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: 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: 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: 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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  • Date: 09 January 2024
  • Author: Jason Clay

With COP28 now in our rearview mirror, it’s clear that insufficient attention has been paid to what is perhaps the most complex climate issue of all: How to reduce the environmental footprint of producing food and address the impact of climate change on future food production. To address these issues, we should consider what I call the “1% Solution,” which would add a 1% environmental service payment to the price of food exports.

Current market prices do not cover the actual costs of food production in many, if not most, parts of the world. Those costs include what are often referred to as social and environmental externalities—unacceptable impacts like deforestation and conversion, soil erosion and degradation, poor livelihoods for farmers and farm workers, malnutrition and insufficient food.

Most governments can’t afford the fundamental changes to their food systems necessary for more sustainable food production, even as global population and food consumption continue to increase. Global trade, meanwhile, has doubled every 20 years, from 6% of global production in 1980 to 30% in 2020. What if we tapped into that explosive growth in trade to cover the cost of sustainability?

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  • Date: 12 December 2023
  • Author: Jason Clay, WWF Senior Vice President and Executive Director, Markets Institute

Over the past decade there have been increasing references in the media about climate change’s disruptive impact on food production. But there is already a more systemic impact on the global food system that we are missing — what I call climate loss.

Climate loss is pre-harvest food loss: the uncalculated losses farmers suffer from not planting a crop, changing crops due to weather, or extreme weather reducing or wiping out a crop before harvest. It can also be caused by increased predation, pests, and diseases that are triggered by climate change.

This is not a new issue. Farmers have long had years when they could not plant crops, or at least the desired crop, because of weather. But the situation is now more extreme than ever.

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  • Date: 06 December 2023
  • Author: Jason Clay, WWF Senior Vice President and Executive Director, Markets Institute

Transforming any food system will require new policies and difficult choices. This is particularly true if we acknowledge from the outset that by simply improving the way we produce food, we can achieve 80% absolute reductions of food-related GHG emissions and 50% for the rest of food’s footprint. Current improvement rates will not cut it. We need nothing short of transformation.

The first questions are where the biggest impacts that need to be addressed exist, who is producing them, why, and what incentives could induce them to change. These are the targets. We need to move the bottom, the poorest performers. And since our goals are metrics, our assessments should be as well. The biggest impacts and the most wasteful production come from the least efficient producers.

The bottom 10-20% of producers of any commodity produce 60-80% of the impacts but only 5-10% of the product. By improving their efficiencies, we can achieve absolute reductions of environmental impact at a scale that is both significant and sufficient. More importantly, a focus on these producers is the only way to reduce impacts by 50% absolutely. Working with the better producers will not fix the problem.

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  • Date: 01 December 2023
  • Author: Emily Moberg, WWF

Setting deforestation- and conversion-free commitments can come with a steep learning curve. One of the first hurdles to overcome is deciphering some commonly used—and commonly misunderstood—environmental science terms and concepts. One of the questions I get the most often: what is the difference between cutoff dates and target dates? In the following post I’ll delve into specific definitions and context, along with why this is so crucial to get right.

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  • Date: 29 November 2023
  • Author: Jason Clay, WWF Senior Vice President and Executive Director, Markets Institute

Most of my career I’ve tried to anticipate issues, or at least identify them as they unfold, build awareness, and encourage others to work on them and share their results with others. Being early gives one the ability not just to watch things evolve but to shape them directionally. Recruiting key actors with skin in the game allows them to “own” issues and solutions. It is much quicker, not to mention cheaper, to create change before investments are made in a wide range of different, often competing strategies.

In December 2011, Ban Ki-moon convened a side event at COP17 in Durban, South Africa that focused on halting deforestation. The event identified the global food system as a key driver of deforestation and habitat conversion. Christina Figueres, Jane Goodall, Richard Branson, Achim Steiner, and two or three others including myself participated in the discussion. There was resistance, including in WWF, to opening the climate tent to include food.

A dozen years later, concerns remain about adding complex issues like food production to the climate debate, as some feel it might slow or even derail efforts to move from fossil fuels to low-carbon alternatives for energy and transport. There has been much progress for energy and transport, but we still need strategies that make the transition cheaper, faster, and scalable by sharing knowledge, methodologies, experiences about what works and doesn’t, and technologies. As this critical five-year “stocktake” begins at COP28, are we reaching our goals?

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