Organic and sustainable food chains

How can sustainability be brought into the mainstream within the agriculture and food sector? Case studies, visions and ideas for redesigning the sector.

Session partners:

Industrialized agriculture causes negative impacts on natural systems like the dramatic loss of soil fertility and biodiversity, soil degradation and depletion of water supplies. The sector is one of the major contributors to the ecological footprint of humanity. Production processes depend on varying climatic conditions and are determined by cultural values, regional and geographic conditions. Raw materials, inputs, feed and food are traded at regional, national and at a global level.
© Rainer Sturm/

“A profound change of the global food and agriculture system is needed if we are to nourish today’s 925 million hungry and the additional 2 billion people expected by 2050” (FAO). The situation will most probably not improve with population growth, competition between food and other land use (e.g. bio fuels, infrastructure) or farmers leaving their soils.

The food system extends far beyond the farm. The agriculture and food sector has enormous implications on the economic, social and natural environment, as well as human health. An effective, sustainable sector will be decisive for the fair and sustainable coexistence of mankind.

Farmers and especially small scale farmers, producing more than half of the world’s food, input suppliers, processors, retailers, consumers, and policy makers are involved along the product chain with different or even competing interests. Parties involved in the chain cannot evade responsibility for acting sustainably.

The same applies to consumers, who can also play their role in creating a sustainable food system. However, broadening of the consumer perspective is necessary so that environmental quality, resource use, and social equity issues are considered as well in shopping decisions.

To ensure sustainability in the food sector makes real progress, key players must adopt a diverse range of approaches, tools and strategies.

Challenges and questions
Key questions for the panel:

Moderator and Setting the scene: David Gould, IFOAM,
Coordinator of the Sustainable Organic Agriculture Action Network (SOAAN)

Jan-Kees Vis, Unilever

Christian Schader, Fibl Switzerland

Volkert Engelsman, Eosta

 Martina Fleckenstein, WWF Germany

Marion Fürst, Danone

Chris Wille, Rainforest Alliance

Session tasks:

  1. Discuss tools and intervention points to foster sustainability in the sector.
  2. Show examples of sustainable business models and discuss transferability into practice for other businesses.
  3. Scaling up sustainability: How to broaden the consumer perspective so that sustainability is considered in shopping decisions.
Background information:
  1. United Nations sustainable development platform: Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture,
  2. Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture systems (SAFA), FAO,
  3. SAFA Guidelines, (Test version 1.0),
  4. Food and Agriculture: The future of sustainability, released by the U.N. Division for Sustainable Development as a major strategic input to its landmark “Sustainable Development in the 21st Century” Report,
  5. The Sustainable Organic Agriculture Action Network (SOAAN),
  6. WWF Deutschland: Nachhaltigkeitsstandards für Agrarrohstoffe,
  7. IAASTD report: Agriculture at a Crossroads,
in cooperation with:
WWF Deutschland
brands and values
Soil and More
Rainforest Alliance
Rewe Group
UTZ certified