Food Systems

Given the urgency of the climate crisis and the need to limit global warming below 1.5°C, financial institutions with significant portfolio exposure to food systems have an important role to play in supporting global climate efforts to limit future severe risks to nature and people. Food systems relate to how we produce, process, distribute, prepare and consume food. The goal is to make this sustainable – to ensure food security and nutrition for all, which is produced and consumed within planetary boundaries, in a way that producers can make decent livelihoods. At the same time, we need to safeguard the economic, social, cultural, and environmental features of the system, to generate food security and nutrition for future generations.

Food systems remain one of the key contributors to global nature loss and are exacerbating the climate crisis. At least one third of total global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities can be attributed to the way we produce, process and package food. The agriculture sector needs to reduce its agricultural production emissions, including those from livestock, fertilizers, rice production, and energy use, by 22% by 2030 and 39% by 2050. The expansion of agricultural commodities also continues to be the largest driver of deforestation worldwide.

In April 2023, the report “Driving Finance for Sustainable Food Systems: A Roadmap to Implementation for Financial Institutions and Policy Makers” was published to guide financial institutions through opportunities to enhance financial flows to sustainable food systems.

Good Food Finance – High Ambition Group

UNEP FI convenes financial institutions for Good Food Finance Network‘s High Ambition Group. This is a leadership initiative by financial institutions and agri-businesses working on setting and implementing ambitious targets that contribute to a transition towards more sustainable food systems. The targets being set are in the most relevant impact areas for each organization, including no-deforestation efforts, climate change mitigation and adaptation, nature positive ambitions, healthy diets, food security, resource efficiency, circular economy, human rights, gender equality, among others. 

UNEP extends an invitation to financial institutions with significant exposure to food and agriculture portfolios and that are serious about making food systems more sustainable. This will start with efforts (setting and implementing food system targets) relevant to their own institutions and jointly as part of this Group. Contact us to find out how your organisation can get involved.

Proof of Concept Projects – Food, Forests & Land Use

The United Nations focuses on helping to ensure that land resources, globally but particularly in forested developing countries, are used in a way that simultaneously enables sustainable agricultural and economic development locally and globally, ensures the health and stability of forest and other ecosystems and the continued provision of their services at the required scale, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation to levels in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.

UNEP FI’s work supports financial institutions, governments, the international community and other stakeholders in making progress towards this vision through a programme of work targeted at – and in partnership with – financial markets and the investment community, locally and globally. Here are just some of the projects we are involved with, which are testing sustainable finance concepts on-the-ground.

The Good Growth Partnership is advancing technical capabilities to finance sustainable commodity supply chains. The work focuses on three commodities (beef, palm oil and soy) and four countries – Paraguay, Brazil, and Indonesia, and Liberia. The partners include UNEP FI, UNDP, IFC, UNEP-WCMC, WWF and others. Work is funded by the Global Environment Facility.

The Restoration Initiative develops bankable projects to contribute to the restoration and maintenance of critical landscapes which provide global environmental benefits and more resilient economic development. It provides technical assistance for nature-based solutions in 10 countries including China, Pakistan, Guinea-Bissau and Sao Tome and Principe. The work is co-led by IUCN, FAO and UNEP and funded by the Global Environment Facility.

Innovative Finance for the Amazon, Cerrado and Chaco (IFACC) is a US$30 billion opportunity for banks, companies and investors to protect South America’s most vulnerable and iconic biomes while supporting two of its most important commodities – beef and soy. Get in touch if you are a bank or investor seeking to expand innovative finance for deforestation/conversion-free beef and soy in these regions.

UN REDD Programme: UNEP FI provides technical assistance and capacity building to develop business models for sustainable production across a range of agricultural commodities in countries including Vietnam, Costa Rica, Kenya and Ivory Coast. Work is funded through a multi-donor trust fund managed by UNDP.