Our new report Valuing the SDG Prize in Food and Agriculture shows that meeting the challenges of the food and agriculture sectors sustainably could unlock 14 major business opportunities worth US$2.3 trillion annually by 2030. Each opportunity has an estimated value range: from cattle intensification where sustainable improvements could increase value by US$15 billion a year, to reducing food waste in value chains worth US$405 billion to the private sector.
With an annual investment of US$320 billion, fully pursuing these sustainable opportunities would deliver a 7-fold return on investment.
These opportunities could help meet the serious challenges in the sectors. The current global food and agriculture system is at a critical juncture as growth rates in yields decline below continued growth in population, and as pressures on natural capital – on both land and in the oceans – continue to intensify. While many people are eating better than ever, over 800 million people are under-nourished, and 165 million children who suffer from stunting and a growing obesity epidemic. In rural economies, over 1.5 billion smallholder farmers are still living at or below the poverty line. And competing demands for land – for food, feed, fuel and forestry product – is causing an immense pressure on forests and other natural habitats, not only contributing to greenhouse gas emissions but also to the current wave of species extinction.
The report, from AlphaBeta and commissioned by the Business Commission, looks at how food and agriculture businesses can grow by pursuing sustainable and inclusive business models aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Launched in 2015, the SDGs are 17 time-bound targets for ending poverty and hunger, reducing inequality and tackling urgent challenges such as climate change, by 2030. The food and agriculture sectors directly relate to SDGs 2 (ending hunger), 3 (health and well-being), 8 (decent work and economic growth), 10 (reduced inequalities), 12 (responsible consumption and production), 13 (climate action), 14 (protect life below water) and 15 (protect life on land), but they are cross-cutting sectors that also affect the remaining Global Goals.
The research shows that developing countries have the most to gain from SDG-aligned business opportunities, capturing more than two-thirds of the estimated economic value due to their large shares of arable land, high future consumption growth and large potential efficiency gains. Across regions, the biggest business opportunity in developing Asia is in cutting food waste across the value chain; while in developed Asian countries like South Korea and Japan, reducing consumer food waste offers the biggest gains. In India, investing in supply chain improvements and food innovation in low-income food markets is the strongest opportunity for businesses, and in Latin America and Africa, reducing deforestation and land degradation in forest ecosystem services offers the largest.
All told, sustainable food and agriculture could deliver 80 million new jobs around the world. While it is difficult to predict substitution in employment, policymakers can be encouraged that a shift to sustainability would come with sizable job opportunities.
The paper outlines what businesses and policymakers have to do to unlock these opportunities, including making the necessary US$320 billion in annual investments, working with governments to improvement regulations, and improving business models. Download the report below to learn more about how businesses in food and agriculture can seize these sustainable opportunities.