The Food and Land Use Coalition

Plateau Farming Reduced

Today’s food and land-use systems are unsustainable in every country. Without deep changes in food production, nutrition, water use, biodiversity management, and other dimensions of food and land-use systems, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change cannot be achieved.

The Food and Land Use Coalition, initiated with Business and Sustainable Development Commission leadership, is a coalition that evolved with a sense of urgency from forward thinking organisations reaching out to each other to take on the complex challenge of transforming the food and land use systems. The Food and Land Use Coalition brings together players from across the public, private and civil society sectors to develop global and national targets and pathways towards sustainable land-use and food systems, identify and support business solutions, and implement national and local solutions. The Food and Land Use Coalition is supported by a unique combination of partners, including the BSDC (housed at SYSTEMIQ), the EAT FoundationSustainable Development Solutions Network, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and the New Climate Economy (housed at World Resources Institute).

The current global food and agricultural system is at a critical juncture:

  1. The system threatens our planet’s climate and natural capital, while increasing and competing demand for land is putting more pressure on resources. Land use accounts for 23% of emissions yet will need to be over 40% of the climate solution by acting as a large net carbon sink effect. Agriculture is the dominant driver of tropical deforestation and associated biodiversity loss, land degradation and freshwater withdrawals, contributing not only to greenhouse gas emissions but also to the current wave of species extinction.
  2. Rural economies are not delivering prosperity to much of the workforce that drives it. Over 500 million smallholder farmers and fishers live in poverty. Indeed, smallholder farmers have the highest poverty rate of all sectors globally.  
  3. There are significant health and livelihood challenges. Over 800 million people are undernourished, while 2 billion people are either overweight or obese. Land yield growth rates are in dramatic decline – below the expected demand from population growth – and yet our current systems lose or waste 1/3 of food produced.

These problems are set to get worse. Great areas of land are ever more urgently needed to act as a sink of greenhouse gases to meet the Paris Agreement on climate change. The global population is expected to reach more than 9 billion by 2050, when the world will need 50% more food, putting even more intense pressure on finite land and marine resources. Put simply, if we don’t transform the world’s food and land use systems fast, we don’t have a hope of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. 

Responses to date towards these challenges have been fragmented and piecemeal. We are seeing a myriad of private sector responses to this complex issue – with mixed success. Business as usual is not enough. Responsibility lies with the private sector, along with policymakers and civil society, to improve sustainability of value chains and consumer habits.

The opportunities in food and land use

However, the world can choose a new and sustainable path to balance these needs. A new Food and Land-Use Economy can produce the goods and services that people need, particularly food but also feed, fibre, and fuel. It will do so while restoring the soil and conserving biodiversity (especially avoiding tropical deforestation) and ensuring the health, economic development, social well-being, and social inclusion of the global population.

Moreover, there is huge economic opportunity in a sustainable transformation. The BSDC‘s report Valuing the SDG Prize in Food and Agriculture found that addressing the challenges of the food and land use system could unlock 14 major business opportunities worth US$2.3 trillion annually by 2030. This could drive a 7-fold return on an annual investment of US$320 billion. In addition, these new SDG-related business opportunities could generate 80 million new jobs by 2030, equivalent to 2% of the forecasted size of the labour force that year.

Business solutions deliver benefits through new opportunities or cost and risk reduction, while delivering societal goals. Business solutions in food and land use represent a wide and overlapping range of activities, from innovation and investment to retail and consumption habits. Six categories help to frame key areas of tension and opportunity: Precompetitive Agreements and Targets, Business Coalitions, Private-Public Engagement, Increasing Investment, Innovation and R&D, and Shifting Consumer Behaviour. 

Coalition Objectives and Vision

The Food and Land Use Coalition has broad goals. It seeks to define global targets for food and land use systems (covering GHG emissions, nitrogen and phosphorous cycles, healthy and sustainable diets, biodiversity, water and air quality and others) and define global and national pathways to achieve them. This work will be used to iteratively inform and raise the ambition of the private sector, and the Coalition will facilitate collaboration to meet these targets and pathways. Importantly, the Coalition will go deep into the policy, regulatory environment, and businesses of individual countries. Its efforts will start with Colombia, Indonesia and Ethiopia, and could later include the Nordics, Australia, and Europe.

Ultimately, this will help to achieve our vision of a new Food and Land Use Economy, which will enable healthy nutrition for nearly 10 billion people by 2050, increase prosperity across the rural economy, and rebuild and protect natural capital.

How the new Coalition is organized

The Coalition is divided into three workstreams, informing and interacting with each other.

  1. Global and National Pathways: The Coalition will define science-based targets, aligned to the wider SDG agenda, to provide a unifying narrative for priorities in the food and land-use system and inform the development of possible global and local pathways toward these goals. 
  2. Business Solutions: The Coalition will raise the ambition of the private sector response by highlighting the business case for a sustainable transformation. We will develop a cross-cutting, investible portfolio of business solutions, incorporating 14 hotspots with the biggest opportunities to scale. The team will explore existing initiatives, and outline areas to accelerate and scale change. The Coalition will connect relevant initiatives and prevent further fragmentation of the response.  
  3. Country Deep Dives: The Coalition will focus on a set of geographic-specific initiatives to develop action roadmaps combining innovations, a demonstration of economic and political benefits, and a strategy for managing political economic opinion dynamics.


The Food and Land Use Coalition is already hard at work. Here are some upcoming deadlines of the efforts:

September 2017: UNGA Week

  •  With the support of the Norwegian Government, the Coalition will host a panel event. The event will aim to introduce the Coalition and mission to many more policy and government stakeholders, as well as private and civil society players.

October 2017: Asia-Pacific Food Forum

  • The Asia-Pacific Food Forum will address the main food challenges in the region, including food security in a changing climate, the effects of rapid urbanization on diets, and the double burden of malnutrition. Members of the Coalition will attend this major Southern hemisphere event.

mid-2019: The Coalition will release a global report that sets out inspiring goals, opens up attractive and innovative pathways for how to deliver these goals, gets practical about the ways to implement them, and expands the political headroom to drive structural change. This report will represent only the start of building a compelling new alternative to business-as-usual.

Contact us

For more information, contact us at [email protected]