A Thriving world for our Future Generation
The Agenda 2030 is one of the essential achievements for modern society, a touchstone for raising awareness on the current global challenges and a straightforward action plan.
Aiming at a sustainable development means harmonizing the economic, social, and environmental dimensions, merging the role that People, Planet, and Prosperity play nowadays to lead towards a thriving society.
17 Goals and 169 targets that can be all, directly or indirectly, connected to the food system. Because speaking about SDGs means speaking about food.
Food security, food safety, good quality nutrition, undernourishment: no country on Earth is exempt.
This explains why empowering global collaborative partnerships among different stakeholders is at the heart of the Agenda for this #DecadeOfAction. For too long have we been experiencing the silos approach’s disastrous effects: no solo players can solve global challenges. For many years, the public and private sectors have worked separately; youths were afraid to speak up to corporations. It’s time to break these silos, unleash the power generated by multidisciplinarity and contamination of expertise, and encourage cooperation to unlock the food system’s opportunities.
For this reason, on the 6th of August, the Future Food Institute has brought together, around the same virtual table, representatives of different parts of our society to reflect on how to improve food security and achieve Prosperity in the Sustainable Development Framework. An inspiring discussion developed under the fishbowl highlighting the crucial need of breaking the generational silos and the cultural barriers, highlighting the power of diversity and involving different voices from industries (Pierluigi Sigismondi from Dole), institutions (Maximo Torero from FAO), innovation (Peter Schelstraete from Ubuntoo), digital media (Max Schorr from Upworthy), environment (Jonathon Porritt from the Forum for the Future and the young climate activists Melati Wijsen from Bye Bye Plastic Bags, Ugo and Emma Angeletti from Back2Earth, and Joshua Williams from Joshua Hearth Foundation).
How to facilitate the connection to start this movement?
Here some reflections from the roundtable:
Individual stories matter
“How loud should we speak for our voices to be heard before a systemic change happens?”
With this challenging question, one of the young leaders (Melati Wijsen) opened the debate about intergenerational collaboration. However, as clearly stressed out by Max Schorr, we often underestimate the power of single stories on the whole society and the potential for inspiration and influence generated by individual convictions and actions. At our Roundtable we had Joshua Williams, who started his mission against poverty and hunger at 4 and a half years old; two siblings who began their mission on valuing compost by asking their neighbors to separate the components of their domestic trash; and a young teenager living in Bali Island that first experienced the issue of plastic bags when she was 12.
Their personal stories build added value to the message they carry.
Make it personal
It is clear that when people can personally relate to a specific issue or challenge, there are better chances for them to make a change. Making the issue personal or thinking about the impacts of specific actions within a person’s inner family or friends is the exact trigger for transformation.
“Food waste is something very personal because we all produce waste, and we all eat. If you show people that this is personal than they need to take a stand” — Emma Angeletti
Bring the purpose back
Every one and each of us has the potential to be a changemaker. Regardless of our roles and positions, reversing the inconsistencies and inefficiencies of the current food system deals with people’s purposes and values.
The systemic approach starts at the individual level, as companies and institutions are first composed of individuals.
Bringing purpose back, especially for businesses, and opening the door towards the “purpose revolution” can generate a snowball effect at the employee and society level.
In this sense, one of the best examples brought during the Roundtable by Pierluigi Sigismondi was the Dole Promise, an ambitious intention to look beyond mere economic profits to put in place a unique business model, able to help society to thrive under challenging circumstances inspired by the Sapo Yoshi Japanese principles.
A pathway towards awareness
Whether we are consumers or suppliers, the current situation we have been facing within the food systems passes through our choices and awareness. Conscious food decisions required informed consumers that can be empowered to “vote with their forks”. Also, from the suppliers’ side, the current situation of massive food loss and waste is a consequence of inefficient food management. This means that on the one hand, we should stress more the role of practical intelligence as opposed to short-termism as raised by Pierluigi Sigismondi: “How many times can we accept to buy a plastic bottle only because we consider its immediate benefits?”. On the other hand, Jonathon Porritt stressed the need to instill a sense of urgency for the food crisis. Contrary to the consensus reached at the international level on the climate crisis, one of the most evident problems on awareness is that people still struggle to perceive the sense of emergency on the food system.
Opportunities: the other side of challenges
As clearly reported by Maximo Torero, if there is a bright side that we can extract from the global pandemic, regardless of the restrictions and disruptions of the food chain, the agri-food sector proved to be remarkably resilient. This does not mean that there is no room for increasing efficiency, but that several opportunities can be identified.
Similarly, also for the same concept of sustainability: we used to think about sustainability as something that we have to do, rather than an incredible opportunity to differentiate a company. Looking at the possibilities of future growth, the level of excitement and creativity undoubtedly increases.
“Cutting Food waste is a delicious way to save money” — Peter Schelstraete
The power of movements
It may be true that most of the biggest industries and major corporations may not be willing to lead towards a disruptive change, because of incentives and opposing economic interests. Whether this aspect represents a significant obstacle in the current food system’s challenges, we do not have to underestimate the power generated by youth and consumer movements. As stressed by Maximo Torero and Pierluigi Sigismondi, both governments and companies react to consumers and civil society movements, representing the concrete incentives to make the change.
This also explains why in parallel with the “Food System Summit”, scheduled by FAO for next year, there is also the intention to organise a movement starting from the bottom, to make people realise about the urgency of changing the current situation and the power individuals have when gathered in large masses.
“The biggest change is when we work with governments, industries, and NGOs.” — Joshua Williams
Digital Technologies enable the raising of awareness and knowledge
One of the most powerful messages from the Roundtable has been honesty and humility from the “senior” side of the table to admit that they don’t have all the answers.
But as Max Schorr said, “Technology allows us to learn what works very quickly.”
Time for a true collaboration
“Is everybody looking for a debate with the younger generation? Tataaa here we are!” — Melati Wijsen
With these words full of enthusiasm, excitement, and eagerness to be part of the debate, the whole Roundtable has recognized the need for encouraging a narrative composed of more “dots and bridges” and creating a movement of change. Youth can be the catalyst for change and become the communication bridge with the older generation. Youths are makers and doers and “actions speak a lot louder than words”!
This very inspiring Roundtable allowed me to reflect on the essential need of Long-term thinking to build a thriving world for our Future Generation, finding the magic balance to regenerate the Planet, care about People and build Prosperity for all.
The bad attitude of “short-termism” is only a threat to the future of humankind.