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) Sustainable Commodity Production.
Agriculture and Development
The Food Lab and its members facilitate and support market connections between multinational food companies and small-scale farmers around the world. We develop and implement 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. And we engage companies in an action-learning community around smallholder performance measurement in order to support their development of cost-effective approaches to improved farm-level sustainability of their smallholder supply chains.
In Africa for example, with support that the Gates Foundation provided Rainforest Alliance, we created 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 visit our project page here.
The Food Lab also partners with Sysco, Superior Foods, SUMAR, Oxfam GB, CIAT, and ADAM to bring together world-class expertise on sustainable agriculture, poverty alleviation and agribusiness with market demand and technical assistance. This collaboration is focused on improving small-scale vegetable production and benefiting rural communities in the region of Sololá, Guatemala. Farmers and buyers alike face complex challenges to stable farming and supply chains, such as the effects of climate change, eroding soil fertility and volatile global markets. This innovative partnership focuses on building transparent and equitable business relationships between transnational corporations and small-scale producers.
The New Business Models for Sustainable Trading Relationships Project, with support from the Unilever/Oxfam partnership on smallholder sourcing also created a new web-based learning platform: LINKING WORLDS. It is designed to support companies and non-profits working with 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 functioning “action-learning” projects – thereby helping companies and NGOs become more effective at realizing both development and commercial benefits.
Most recently, the Sustainable Food Lab has been involved in a number of projects focused on cost-effective approaches to better understanding the farm-level sustainability of smallholder supply chains.
Increased transparency through the supply chain about the conditions and needs of producers and affordable measures of improvements are critical to building effective information feedback loops as part of the work towards more inclusive supply chains.
Sustainable Food Lab and The Center for Development Innovation of Wageningen UR (CDI), as part of the Seas of Change Scaling Inclusive Agri-Food markets, are working to accelerate learning and knowledge development in the field of performance measurement in two ways:
- Coordinating exchanges and action-learning between lead companies, NGO, donors, and tool developers on performance measurement, and:
- Field testing metrics and methodology with companies and supply chains.
This will result in the development of a body of knowledge around Performance Metrics in the broader framework of Monitoring and Evaluation system building.
For more detail on the Food Lab’s development work, visit the Agriculture & Development page.
Food System and Climate
The 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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