Responsible business and investment will be essential to achieving transformational change through the SDGs. For companies, successful implementation will strengthen the enabling environment for doing business and building markets around the world.
The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation (BCFN Foundation) is a private non-profit apolitical institution. Working as a multidisciplinary and independent think tank, it is open to everybody and analyses the cause and effect relationship economic, scientific, social and environmental factors have on food. The foundation produces valuable scientific content that can be used to inform and help people to make conscious choices every day about food and nutrition, health and sustainability.
We were grateful to have the opportunity to chat with the Operational President of the BCFN Alumni Association, Francesca Allievi, where she reflected on her own experiences in the food and nutrition industry and how BCFN’s ongoing mission to promote open dialogue between Science, Politics, Business and Society is intrinsically linked to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
How do you see the work of Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition being aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals?
The core work of BCFN is revolving around tackling the three biggest paradoxes of today’s food system and each of these can be connected with one or more SDGs. The first paradox concerns the contrast between the amount of obese or overweight people and the number of those still dying from hunger: for every undernourished person there are now two obese or overweight people in the world. This is the reflection of a system where access to food is unequal: solving such issue is definitively in line with achieving specific SDGs, especially number 1, 2, 3 and 10. The second paradox is the uneven balance of the ratio of land used for biofuels or animal feed and land used for food production, which also calls for a regulation of the financial speculation on food in order to guarantee food security. Promoting sustainable forms of agriculture and production goes in the same direction of SDGs 12, 13 and 15. The third paradox concerns food waste: 1.3 billion tons of edible food is wasted every year, which is equal to a third of global food production and four times the amount needed to feed the 795 million undernourished people around the world. Such situation is a consequence of problems in food production and distribution, as well as poor individual habits. Encouraging virtuous practices such as the redistribution of expiring food to the poorest, and the cooperation among farmers, producers and distributors of food for a proper forecast of consumer demand, goes in the same direction of SDG number 10. Moreover, the work carried out by BCFN with the Milan Protocol (a document offering practical proposals to the three aforementioned paradoxes in the current food system) is targeted at getting institutions committed to changing the status of things, thus contributing to SDG number 17. In general, the efforts brought about by BCFN to bring knowledge about food sustainability issues to the civil society, contributes to the translation of the SDGs in actual improvements, while the multidisciplinary approach which characterises the work of BCFN reflects the need for coherent actions in all parts of society for the achievement of SDGs. As BCFN Alumni, we are also members of the SDSN Youth network (http://sdsnyouth.org), further underlining our commitment to the achievement of SDGs.
Could you tell us a little about the Youth Manifesto and how it will help in addressing the various challenges associated with food and nutrition?
There are two main innovations in the approach of the Youth Manifesto (https://www.barillacfn.com/m/pdf/youth_manifesto_en.pdf): the bottom-up process with the direct involvement of youth and the point of view of seven different profiles for the development of sound policy recommendations. This document is the result of a two-day workshop which was held in Parma, Italy, in September 2015: all the members of the BCFN Alumni Association (https://www.barillacfn.com/en/alumni/), together with few other young researchers gathered with the aim of putting forward innovative ideas to tackle the challenges of the current food system. The resulting document acts as a call to action targeted to all stakeholders of the food system, as it was developed through the point of view of seven key roles in the food system: policy maker, farmers, activists, educators, the food industry, journalists and researchers. The Youth Manifesto has been presented to a number of institutions, including the Italian Minister of Agriculture and the European Parliament. The characteristics of the Youth Manifesto are of great importance to bring the topics of food sustainability at the center of the public discussion: by empowering youth and acknowledging the contribution which they can give to the creation of change, we take a step forward in making sustainability a standard and not an exception for the future of the food system.
What do you think are the biggest challenges in achieving sustainable food systems?
The rising average income coupled with the increasing population is putting a strain on environmental resources worldwide: the challenge is to create alternative styles of production and consumption, especially in developing countries, where the majority of the world population lives. They look up at the Western diet as something to aspire to, so it will be challenging to shift people’s awareness on the environmental impact of their food choices. Also, we should come to terms with the fact that when it comes to producing food sustainably, there is not one single solutions that fits all: shaping a range of solutions is certainly more difficult, but more interesting as well.
One topic raising up in your work is the two-way relationship between climate change and food – could you tell us a bit more about your perspective to this?
As we already know, food production is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as other environmental impacts, which have consequences for climate change. The food system is complex and so is the understanding of what would be the most effective strategy in improving its sustainability, however, I also believe that having an impact on the food system is the easiest thing anyone anywhere can do to play an active role in contributing to halt climate change. If individual actions are coupled with institutional support, the change can be very significant in a short time. You are all invited to join the discussion by attending the next BCFN Forum, which will be held in Milan next December 1st
What do you find most inspiring in your daily work?
Change. Seeing change happen, seeing people changing their consumption habits, seeing food labels change, seeing vegetarian and vegan options becoming increasingly available and inviting, seeing issues of climate change and the role of food being discussed in the news, seeing a still budding but increasing awareness is what inspires me the most, its what gives me the feeling that I am working on issues which are increasingly recognised as important and which more and more people are adapting to their personal lives and their businesses.