Food for thought: How food & beverage companies can feed systemic change

Oxfam’s recent research shows food & beverage companies and their suppliers are making progress on the sustainability front but lack control over their entire value chain. And in our experience, many run multiple transformation and/or sustainability programs but fail to integrate them in a purposeful strategy.

Meanwhile, agricultural workers' value has slimmed down by 44% between 1998 and 2015.

On top of that, reducing food loss would decrease man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 8%.

A slow digestion

Between 2013 and 2016, Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign challenged the world’s top 10 food & beverage companies to improve their policies in three key areas. But have they put people and the planet at the top of their triple bottom line? Here is a concentrate of the Oxfam assessment’s most juicy highlights.

Women’s empowerment

There is still much to be done to close the gender equality gap across the food supply chain. For instance, female cocoa farmers’ role is mostly labour-based and they cannot make their voices heard as much as men.

Land rights

Corporations encouraged, yet did not force, their suppliers to include land rights codes in their policy framework. Plus, companies can’t keep track of where about within their supply chain land rights violations occur.

Climate change

Half of the “Big 10” food companies have committed to a less ambitious net zero goal (2°C rather than 1.5°C). To add to that, none of the companies is monitoring their zero-deforestation program.

Oxfam’s sustainability recipe

To aid companies’ digestion, Oxfam recommended a series of healthy ingredients.

A new way of doing business

  • Focus on workers, consumers and affected communities (not just your shareholders).
  • Select ecologically safe and socially just suppliers.
  • Empower people through the redistribution of value along your supply chain.

Human rights and transparency

  • Adopt a transparent human rights due diligence (HRDD).
  • Embed human rights duties in your corporate governance.
  • Minimise land inequality while safeguarding workers’ land ownerships.

Climate justice

  • Reduce your net carbon emissions across your entire value chain to comply with the Paris agreement targets going to zero in 2050.
  • Erase deforestation and exploitation from your supply chain.
  • Evaluate climate risks and spur climate-friendly models such as agroecology.

A Purposeful boost for a faster delivery

To survive over the next decade, corporate leaders have got to deliver on systemic change. This means increasing sustainability while reducing inequalities within their supply chains, yet without losing sight of their bottom line.

Food & beverage companies should switch from a heavily profit-based diet to a healthy business model also nurturing people and our planet. In our experience, Oxfam’s ‘recipe’ makes lots of sense.

Do you have multiple transformation & sustainability programs running but struggle to formulate a comprehensive approach and get real results?

You can leverage The Purpose Factory's expertise. We have got hands-on C-suite level experience to help you out.

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