Markets Institute: Frequently Asked Questions
The Markets Institute at WWF is committed to identifying and addressing global issues and emerging trends around the most pressing challenge of our time: where and how we produce food.
Our goal is to increase the speed and scale of solutions that make a more sustainable future possible.
The Markets Institute convenes multi-stakeholder platforms to increase awareness and build consensus about the most pressing issues and trends that will affect global food production. We offer a safe space for participants to speak openly, exchange ideas, identify solutions and incubate innovative approaches to make the global food system more sustainable.
Given the diversity of challenges facing the creation of a more sustainable food system, the Institute borrows from the venture capital model to identify new issues and trends. Starting with a wide list, we pare it down through discussions with partners and relevant experts and then prioritize the remaining issues and trends. While all of the issues and trends will be publicized each year, the Institute itself will focus on the top three to five that are directly linked to WWF's mission and where there is significant urgency and potential to develop actionable strategies i.e. those that can be rapidly translated by the private sector into market-based solutions at scale.
The Institute's work is informed by data analytics, research, and the expertise of external thought leaders, enabling us to provide the insights and business cases key players need to avoid risk, turn adversity into opportunity, and create change at the speed of life.
The global food system feeds billions and has improved lives worldwide, but the unsustainable impacts of food production constitute the biggest threat to the future of life on Earth. The production of food has the largest environmental impacts globally of any human activity. It accounts for 40% of all land, 70% of water used by people, close to 80% of deforestation worldwide, 70% of biodiversity loss, and from a quarter to more than a third of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Over the next two decades these impacts, exacerbated by climate change, are expected to increase.
To keep up with demand from an increasing and increasingly affluent population, we will need to roughly double global food production by 2050 to meet net demand unless we reduce inefficiency and waste. We will have to produce more with less—less land, water and other inputs—more quickly than ever before. We can do this by working together—increasing efficiency and productivity while reducing waste and being more conscious about our consumption.
The Markets Institute was established to be part of this solution. We create opportunities for producers, companies, researchers and others to learn more quickly and work together to build consensus and achieve results that no single stakeholder can achieve alone.
Based on WWF's experience, it can take from 20 to 50 years between identifying a threat to biodiversity and meaningful change on the ground. That is because after a threat is identified, the relevant stakeholders—e.g. companies, governments, civil society, etc.—have to agree that it constitutes a tangible risk. Once you achieve consensus and prioritize strategies, the next step is to document opportunities and business cases that motivate stakeholders to take action.
At its core, the Markets Institute was created to speed up this process. Our aim is to significantly condense the timeframe between identifying an issue and implementing real world solutions. We do this by informing key actors—particularly those with the global reach and buying power to move the needle—about the most critical threats and issues, securing that critically important consensus and then influencing how those stakeholders work together to achieve sector-wide collective change at both speed and scale.
Our work is premised on the idea that no company or government can effect change alone. All relevant actors need to change how they think about the impacts of food production, and how to collaborate to make the global food system more sustainable. By changing how stakeholders think about an issue rather than what they think, and by offering a space where they can develop precompetitive strategies to achieve results more quickly, we can make today's better practices tomorrow's norms.
All stakeholders share a responsibility to address the impacts of food production. However, the reality is there are 1.5 billion producers of raw materials and more than 7 billion consumers. By contrast, only about 300-500 companies dominate 70-80% of trade in each of the world's 15 food and soft commodities whose production is currently causing the biggest impacts. Of those, 100 companies represent 25% of global trade in all 15 commodities.
WWF's experience—including our Market Transformation work and collaboration with the private sector and other key actors to develop certification standards and platforms—has shown that, while there is no silver bullet, changing the market behavior of the largest actors is one of the most effective ways to transform markets, i.e. to achieve results at the speed and scale required.
The Markets Institute convenes key stakeholders in the food production space to identify and build consensus around areas of common concern. Armed with research-based insights, we work with our partners to explore innovative, precompetitive approaches to address issues. We explore the most promising approaches drawing on insights from across the supply chain, nixing those that are not right for any reason, e.g. too unrealistic, slow or narrow in focus. Once we build consensus on the key issues and trends and fill in information gaps, we work with the appropriate stakeholders to develop strategies they translate them into sector-wide, market-based solutions.
WWF has a long history of collaborative, impactful relationships with NGOs, governments, the private sector and other stakeholders working for a more sustainable future. This includes a legacy of working with companies to develop business practices and tools to manage resource scarcity.
The Markets Institute builds on that history of impactful conservation efforts, WWF's global network of partners, and its unique track record of convening diverse stakeholders to advance conservation.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of this work is that through the Institute, WWF has created a dedicated team not just to solve today's problems, but rather to identify global issues and trends before they become problems that are more entrenched and difficult and expensive to address.
There are a number of ways in which the Markets Institute differs from the rest of WWF's work:
Issue Topics: The Institute is an external facing platform, drawing on the insights and guided by the concerns of diverse stakeholders from across the private and public sectors, the NGO community and academia. This enables us to focus on any issue—from currency values and financial vehicles for small holders, to agricultural infrastructure and increased income and consumption in various countries—that has an impact on food production or demand.
Influence vs. Implementation: The Markets Institute itself does not implement projects around each issue. We focus on convening global actors, influencing how they think about food production, and facilitating collaboration to address its impacts in a precompetitive manner. We gather good ideas from across the value chain, incubate them, give them a solid foundation, and then hand them off to those actors who can implement them at scale.
Systematic Approach: The Institute is comprised of a dedicated team committed to identifying global trends sooner and addressing them faster. A number of our activities, such as convening multi-stakeholder platforms, are not new to WWF. What is new is that our work is carried out within a systematic structure with a dedicated focus and dedicated resources.
The Markets Institute is based at and part of WWF-US. WWF veteran Dr. Jason Clay serves as the Institute's Executive Director while also serving as the SVP of the Markets team at WWF-US.
On a broader level, the Institute represents an evolution of WWF's continuing legacy of sustainable, impactful collaborations with a broad range of companies. For decades WWF has worked with the private sector to develop innovative approaches to evaluate supply chain risks, manage resource scarcity and drive change.
Despite working on the same issues, most organizations involved in food production do not collaborate. They see themselves as competitors. This is true for companies, NGOs and governments alike. Fortunately an emerging breed of "extrapreneurs" is helping facilitate collaboration, connect the dots between broad global networks, and help us to learn faster and manage better.
These change agents move between companies, organizations and sectors, spreading ideas and solutions from one to another. They act like honeybees carrying good ideas, insights and concerns from one organization to another to help us all learn more quickly. Today's extrapreneurs build consensus about big ideas as well as problems—for example, exploring the impacts of food production among large companies, creating a conversation about consumption with consumers, addressing illegality. Put simply, extrapreneurs talk to organizations that don't talk to each other.
In addition to engaging directly with stakeholders, the Markets Institute's work is informed by a number of research-based initiatives, including, but not limited to:
- Multi-Stakeholder Platforms to explore issues, identify research needs where there is little or conflicting data, build consensus, and agree on strategies
- Thought-Leader Group to identify key issues, trends and tools, and then prioritize findings
- ReThink Food market insights newsletter highlighting issues, trends, and tools for a key stakeholder audience
- Modeling to show how, where, and to what degree issues are trending
- "How to Think" Briefs that show the value of thinking different about key issues
- Annual TLG meeting and numerous webinars to share expert findings on key issues and trends with targeted audiences
Established with initial seed capital from WWF-US, the Markets Institute is funded through a combination of grants and contributions from a diverse group of partners, including foundations, companies, private donors and the Thought Leader Group who donate their time
No stakeholder can move the needle alone. That is why the Markets Institute is dedicated to working with the private and public sectors, the NGO community and academia to make a more sustainable future possible. When convening multi-stakeholder groups, we work to bring the right expertise, individuals, entities, and voices to the table to explore solutions. Click here to learn more about how you can work with the Institute.
The Markets Institute's Thought Leader Group (TLG) is comprised of diverse global leaders, thinkers, innovators and "extrapreneurs."Their role is to help identify and prioritize issues, as well as provide insights, expertise, and intelligence around our work. The TLG includes representatives of multinationals, trading companies, finance, NGOs, academia, media, government, and global financial institutions. Click here to learn more about the TLG.
The Markets Institute offers all relevant stakeholders a space to explore precompetitive, collaborative approaches that can help ensure long-term access to raw materials, reduce costs and waste, and mitigate risks.
For private sector partners, the Markets Institute helps companies be more strategic and proactive in developing effective and scalable solutions around raw material availability and reputational and operational risks. Furthermore, the Institute can act as an "early detection system": identifying issues companies may not see, and providing strategic focus on the most critical issues. Overall, we offer companies a way to ensure their future growth, while also conserving our planet.
To learn more about the Markets institute and how you can work with it, please contact us at [email protected].