If some of the biggest players in food and agriculture are serious about what they’re saying here, this is potentially game-changing.
Nevertheless, scepticism is understandable when The Sustainable Markets Initiative Agribusiness Task Force includes the CEOs of Bayer, Yara, McDonalds and Pepsico.
They are amongst those that have caused the problems they now propose to fix and have benefited from the status quo.
Any coalition pushing in the right direction might be a good thing and this potentially throws a huge amount of weight behind important system-wide changes to the food system, but bottom-up change is needed as well, for small farms and communities.
This means decentralising our food system – so the big players are less powerful in the future than they are now. It also means holistic thinking, metrics that respect local context and interrogating claims made by corporates to call out greenwashing.
There seems to be little or no acknowledgement in the SMI statement or action plan of the importance of change in consumer behaviours or the need to massively reduce food waste.
There is no mention whatsoever of agroecology, a framework for sustainable farming that works with nature and which protects and improves rural livelihoods. Where regenerative farming touted by this plan as a panacea for the ills of our food and farming system has no concrete rules, agroecology has agreed principles endorsed by the FAO.
What the plan does appear to do is open up a larger market than ever for ecosystem services companies to create, verify, monitor and sell ecosystem services – turbo-charging the marketplace for carbon and biodiversity offsets.