Even with those commitments in hand, we were still left wondering: Which of these gives the world more food over the long term: recognizing the best producers and certifying them, or helping the worst actors clean up their acts?
Turns out, the 25% of food producers whose practices are least sustainable produce only 10% of the product. But they cause about 50% of the environmental impacts. Yet all of our previous work focused on the best performers. That’s an upside-down equation.
It became abundantly clear. To produce more with less, we need to start moving the least sustainable actors, right now. To do that, we take the lessons learned by better producers—ones that increase productivity while reducing environmental impacts—and turn those into blueprints for action. Then we can show farmers on the low-performing end of the spectrum exactly how sustainable decisions are good for the bottom line. Moving the bottom also means we have to work with governments to create policies that reduce waste and are aligned with productivity, efficiency and continuous improvement.
What exactly is WWF’s role in all this? Well, we’re not entrepreneurs, building our own businesses. We’re not intrapreneurs, creating innovation inside the companies. We’re extrapreneurs. We help companies connect to the right people, identify risks and efficiencies, solve problems earlier, and share information between institutions which might not talk to each other without our help. Like honeybees pollinating an increasingly abundant field.
We pull together the best science and industry know-how, the latest thinking on trends and issues, and use that to inspire better practices across sectors. Still, nobody has fully solved this riddle. Yet that is how we can shift the entire performance curve.
Simply put, sustainability is a pre-competitive issue. It has to be dealt with apart from issues of standard business competition. When entire sectors, platforms or even countries tackle critical sustainability issues together, that’s when we can start to drive progress that is swift and dramatic—exactly what we need to freeze the footprint of food.
The message is plain: Food is precious. Don’t waste it. Producing food takes a lot of human effort and gifts from the Earth. If we don’t get food right, we might as well turn out the lights and go home.