The Sustainable Food Lab incubates partnership projects, sometimes manages those projects, and always collects and shares learning. Presently, we are focusing most of our attention on the following three priorities: 1) Agriculture and Development; 2) Climate Change and Sustainability Metrics; and 3) Regional, Local and Sustainable Food.
Agriculture and Development
The Food Lab and its members are facilitating new market connections between multinational food companies and small-scale farmers in Central America and Africa. We have developed and are implementing new business models that distribute risks and rewards more evenly across the supply chain, improve the flow of market information, and increase access to credit and technical assistance.
In Africa for example, with support that the Gates Foundation is providing Rainforest Alliance, we are creating new market opportunities for bean farmers in Ethiopia, cocoa farmers in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire, and both flower and produce farmers in Kenya and Uganda. For more information or to see if you can get involved, contact
The New Business Models for Sustainable Trading Relationships Project, and with support from the Unilever / Oxfam partnership on smallholder sourcing has created a new web based learning platform, LINKING WORLDS, to support companies and non-profits that are working on supply chains that are inclusive of small scale producers in developing countries. It facilitates the sharing of experiences and “new business models” through research papers, case studies, tools, impact studies, and descriptions of active “action-learning” projects – thereby helping companies and NGOs become more effective at realizing both development and commercial benefits.
Food System and ClimateThe Sustainable Food Lab is instrumental in managing the newly formed Cool Farm Institute which brings together agricultural growers with multinational food suppliers and retailers to promote agricultural practices that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Unilever, PepsiCo, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Yara and Heineken have joined forces as founding members of The Cool Farm Institute whose mission is to enable millions of growers globally to make more informed on-farm decisions that reduce their environmental impact. Focusing on greenhouse gases in the first phase, the Institute provides the Cool Farm Tool as a quantified decision support tool that is credible and standardized.
The Sustainable Food Lab developed and tested ways to measure and incentivize low-carbon agricultural practices through the food supply chain with a team of member companies, university researchers and technical experts in a two year Global Ag Climate Assessement project. Increasing soil organic matter, improving fertilizer application, and capturing methane from livestock are turning agriculture from a problem (accounting for one/sixth of global GHG emissions) into a solution (by enhancing the capacity of crops and soil to store carbon).
The Global Agriculture Climate Assessment supports more than 18 sponsoring companies to assess Green House Gas emissions by engaging farmers to identify management options with help from the Cool Farm Tool GHG Calculator.
The Market Mechanisms for Agricultural Greenhouse Gases initiative aligns and develops methods to quantify carbon for markets. Sustainable Food Lab staff organize workshops and other forms of outreach for this initiative.
Food Lab Member the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops is piloting a comprehensive set of performance metrics for measuring sustainable performance throughout the specialty crop supply chain. The project seeks to offer a suite of outcomes-based metrics to enable operators at any point along the supply chain to benchmark, compare, and communicate their own performance. Sustainable Food Lab staff help steer the development of the Index and facilitate the GHG on-farm metric.
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