corporate meeting

Dear CEO: Global Food Security is Y(O)ur Business

August 1, 2022

Global food security is too important to be left to the food and agriculture industry to address alone. All industries must step up and see themselves as part of the global food system. We therefore ask you to feed Our people, our common humanity that is suffering, and use yOur people to do it.

Two recent reports published by Eurasia Group and DevryBV Sustainable Strategies and BCG estimate that between 1.7 and 1.9 billion people could be suffering from food insecurity by the end of 2022. That’s nearly one-in-four global citizens always teetering on the edge of hunger.

While the crisis is here, world hunger is not a hopeless problem. Global events have for now overwhelmed the steady gains that were being made in alleviating hunger and it will take collective attention to make a difference. Regardless of the company you lead, you can help meet the challenges of food insecurity.

So, here is an idea. Spend some time considering how your core corporate competencies can be leveraged and applied to find innovative solutions to this moral, economic, and political crisis.

There are many good examples of non-food players innovating solutions to address food insecurity. Non-food companies have realized that by owning the issue of hunger and food insecurity they are addressing a critical societal need and a business problem that can yield financial results. New revenue streams can be created by addressing hunger in the business strategy.

Where do you begin?

First, acknowledge that your company has a role and responsibility to ending hunger and starvation. Collectively the business community must address the root causes of food insecurity, and CEOs have the power and the financial, technical, human and political wherewithal to drive systemic change.

Second, contribute significantly to the current humanitarian disaster by donating to organizations such as the UN World Food Programme. Very few non-food companies partner with WFP. David Beasley, Executive Director of WFP, has been soliciting support from the private sector, and it’s time for the broader business community to step up.

Next, go beyond philanthropy and unleash the power of yOur people. Immediately gather your board and your leadership and ask: what can we do as a business to address hunger? If you need help with that session, invite an expert to the session to brief you. Take a full day to whiteboard solutions based on your business. What can your technology do? What services can your business provide? What investments can be made? Can your network of suppliers, customers and consumers contribute in meaningful and sustained ways to address hunger? We ask that you go beyond philanthropy to find real business solutions to end hunger.

Beyond the leadership level, mobilize your employees. Stand up a “food security innovation hub” and open it to your employees across the company. Crowdsource their ideas. Let your employees lead the company to ways that the current business portfolio can be used to address the ongoing food insecurity crisis. Not only will real solutions surface, engaging your employees “feeds” their desire to contribute to solving large societal problems. All the research shows that the employees are motivated to work for companies that are solving societal issues. Use them to support ideation and execution of the company’s food security business plan.

Finally, become a vocal public policy advocate for those people most affected by the food crisis. Empower your government relations teams to advance legislation and regulation that makes food more affordable, nutritious and available to all.

There’s an immediate imperative to petition the G7 and international lending institutions to direct significant financial resources to the net importing, debt-ridden, low- and middle-income countries that are suffering most from the current crisis. Voice discontent when exporting nations place bans or restrictions on food exports that drive up global food prices. Hold political leaders accountable for protectionist food and agriculture policies that limit imports and distort domestic production and prices, hurting the poor. Petition governments to ensure that social safety nets such as nutrition assistance programs and consumer subsidies are fully funded.

The storm clouds have turned into a high intensity hurricane, and the most vulnerable people on earth are the totally innocent victims. The threat is real, the consequences are severe and the time to act is now. A hungry world is too important to leave to others to solve. Whether out of self-interest or a moral imperative or both, we ask you to take ownership. Engage yOur people to feed Our people.

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