How food systems impact the environment
The wide-ranging impacts of current food systems on the environment are clear and arguably the most significant drivers of biodiversity loss and land degradation globally. In just England and Wales, intensive agricultural practices result in 2.2 million tonnes of soil lost every year, and food production contributes 15-30% of national emissions.
Addressing these impacts requires a shift away from the current high-intensity model of food systems, towards regenerative models that actively work within the boundaries of natural systems.
Regenerative agricultural approaches work with rather than against nature, harnessing the full potential of natural processes and restoring critical ecosystem services. This enables a reduction in synthetic inputs, irrigation and threats to ecosystem function, delivering more resilient food systems with increased carbon sinks and turning agriculture from a driver of climate change to one of the solutions.
Nestlé has committed to supporting and accelerating the transition to a regenerative food system, starting with plans to increase regenerative agriculture. We are building our plan around the following six priority action areas and adopting a collaborative approach working with farmers and partners around the world to:
Drive soil conservation
Use organic fertilizers
Develop natural habitats
Use fewer chemicals
The key challenge for us is how can Nestlé, in collaboration with others, support and accelerate the transition to regenerative agriculture in the UK food system and our own supply chains?
Questions the food industry needs to consider
With the complexity of the food industry there's no one correct way to transition to a more regenerative approach. We need to ask ourselves:
- Is it through accelerating established strategies and programmes, either Nestlé’s own programmes or in collaboration with others?
- Is it through accelerating the valuation of natural capital, for example as proposed in The Dasgupta’s review, The Economics of Biodiversity
- Is it through increasing communication to consumers about regenerative agriculture? (A survey by AHDB (Agriculture and Development Board) and YouGov in May 2021, found that only 14% of British consumers have heard of regenerative agriculture, but it is predicted to grow.)
- Are new opportunities offered by the transition to the Government’s proposed Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme? The UK’s reformed agricultural subsidy system is transitioning from land-based payments to payments for ‘public goods’ in the form of environmental benefits. Nestlé has developed comparable approaches in our own supply chains through the payment of premiums to farmers for adopting environmental standards.
What Nestlé is doing to help move to a regenerative solution
We have a number of initiatives and collaborations on which we could build and are open to innovative ideas and new thinking: