As commented on earlier, in September the UN will convene its Food Systems Summit which will launch a bold new framework to deliver progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) transforming the way the world produces, consumes and thinks about food. Prior to this, a Pre-Summit is taking place in Rome from 26-28 July setting the stage for the main global event. The Rome Pre-Summit discussions will focus on 15 action areas with more than 50 solution clusters. There are two areas which have caught our attention.
The first is the focus on food loss and waste (FLW). Given that 1/3 of food is lost or wasted between the farm and fork each year, equivalent to wasting 1/4 of the world’s freshwater used by agriculture and emitting around 8% of global greenhouse gases, this should be of no surprise to anyone. The UN has made it clear that “countries will not be able to achieve Net Zero and are unlikely to deliver the Paris Agreement on climate change without tackling FLW.”
The second is with regards to the complex issue of food system resilience and food security, especially in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which we have seen, inadvertently discriminated heavily against the poorest in our world. I believe every one of us should have access to safe food and water – whoever we are and wherever we are. This is something that, we at Huhtamaki, are committed to as part of our purpose.
What struck me about both these topics is the intersection with the essential role that sustainable food packaging already plays today and can increasingly play going forward, in helping to strengthen our food systems to both reduce FLW and improve affordable accessibility to food for all.
Our ability to claim this is based on common sense. By delivering sustainable fit-for-purpose packaging which protects food from chemical, biological and physical impact, delays product deterioration, extends shelf life, and supports food safety, the packaging ensures that the limited resources used to produce food, and the carbon footprint created, are not wasted. This is particularly important given that the environmental benefit of avoided waste is usually 5 to 10 times higher than the environmental cost of the packaging. Today, only around 5 percent of carbon emissions in food systems are attributable to food packaging.
Building food packaging value chains that are resilient to challenges such as pandemics is as critical to supporting lives and livelihoods as it is in enabling the availability of safe, hygienic, secure, and affordable food products to all. As 56% of the global population now live in urban areas, the role of packaging in transporting and distributing food is crucial. Again, this has been brought into sharp relief during the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic and recent civil unrest in parts of the world. It is why the packaging industry was recognized by governments across the world as an essential industry during the pandemic.
As the UN says, good food keeps us healthy – it strengthens our communities, powers our economies, and protects our planet. Food packaging helps in all these aims and plays a significant role in enabling access to safe food each and every day.
We look forward to the outputs from the pre-summit contributing to the recognition that sustainable packaging is essential to a well-functioning holistic food system. Ensuring that the interlinkages between different parts of the food system are fully incorporated into the recommendations of the Summit will be crucial in delivering the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.