The 2nd Good Food Finance High-Level Leaders Roundtable took place on Monday, 20 September 2021, and launched the Good Food Finance Network. Network members will collaborate toward instrumentation of a global transition to finance for sustainable food systems.
Food systems as they are now generate trillions of dollars in unfunded hidden costs—degrading climate stability, exacerbating biodiversity loss and zoonotic disease spillover, and spreading hunger, malnutrition, and diet-related non-communicable diseases. These risks interact and compound over time and across borders. They pose real threats to human health and wellbeing, and to fiscal health and resilience. We cannot achieve Paris Agreement goals or the UN Sustainable Development Goals, without a food transition that is just, inclusive, and connected to a wider shift to resilience-building finance and practice.
The Good Food Finance Network will build on and take forward the outcomes of the Finance Lever of the UN Food Systems Summit, through a process of collaborative multisectoral innovation. It integrates the previous Good Food Finance Initiative and Finance Network for Food Systems into a single go-to platform for finance leaders to engage on food systems transformation:
- To raise ambition and build community amongst financial institutions, governments and corporates to address critical challenges to mobilizing finance for food systems transformation;
- To drive action through 2021 and towards the SDG deadline in 2030, by bringing together partners to identify, develop, deploy, and mainstream the optimal financial instruments, strategies, and enabling policies, to generate food systems that sustain the health of people, Nature, and whole economies.
The Roundtable opened with statements from the convening core partner organizations’ leaders:
- Dr. Gunhild A. Stordalen—Founder and Executive Chair of EAT
- Inger Andersen—Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UNEP
- Jeremy Coller—Chair of the FAIRR Initiative and Chief Investment Officer for Coller Capital
- Ertharin Cousin—Founder and CEO of Food Systems for the Future
- Peter Bakker—President and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development
Convening partners were followed by Agnes Kalibata, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the 2021 Food Systems Summit. Dr. Kalibata noted the importance of shifting and scaling public and private-sector investments to drive the transformation of food systems, to stop environmental damage, foster human health and wellbeing, and alleviate hunger and poverty.
Wiebe Draijer, Chairman of the Managing Board of Rabobank, formally launched the Good Food Finance Network, “on behalf of and together with” all of those present and pointing to the need to operationalize financial innovation “to transform our food systems to provide health, nutritious and affordable food for all, within the boundaries of this beautiful planet.”
The discussion was moderated by Rachel Kyte, Dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University, a former Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Sustainable Energy for All and former World Bank Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate.
Participants discussed and recommended structural features of a multi-year Action Agenda for mainstreaming proven and emerging tools for improving overall return on investment and fiscal health, through food systems transformation. The discussion highlighted already existing major commitments to realign trillions of dollars in asset-holdings with biodiversity, climate, health, and sustainability goals.
A core GFFN aim is the instrumentation of these programs of realignment, to allow funds to start doing good on an unprecedented scale. Ongoing consultations with key partners, leaders, and advisors, have identified fourteen Actionable Areas of Innovation, encompassing new financial instruments, financing strategies, and enabling policies, as follows:
- Science-based targets—recognizing that science-based targets require not only a long-term goal and life-cycle alignment, but also immediate and near-term action sufficient to achieve the needed pace of change.
- Metrics and data systems—to trace, connect, and mainstream new ways of measuring financial return, valuing Nature, social and sustainability benefits, and integrative value creation—including natural capital accounting, disclosure in line with TCFD and TNFD recommendations, and supporting wider financial system sustainability and interoperability.
- Cooperative de-risking strategies that catalyze investment across the whole value chain, leveraging specific benefits to marginal or underserved communities—food deserts and/or remote rural areas.
- Blended finance and related financing strategies—instruments, strategies, and related metrics and data systems, enabled by cooperative de-risking and outcome-oriented innovations in public policy and incentives.
- Innovative financial services (climate-smart and gender-inclusive debt, equity, venture capital, incubation, and insurance) for food systems actors, including smallholder farmers and agri-SMEs. This involves scaling fit-for-purpose financial products and deploying new business models, technologies, and data integration strategies that bring sustainable finance to the food value chain.
- Payments for Nature—including outcome payments for natural capital and ecosystem services, and other means of incentivizing regenerative agriculture, agroforestry, and the building of biomass in soil, above ground, or in marine environments.
- Sustainability-linked debt—including both conventional bonds with food, health, climate, and resilience benefits, and cooperative multi-stakeholder bonds, which draw on expanded pools of finance, due to multiple projected secondary benefits.
- Regulatory requirements to shape food sector priorities and practices, and to align food sector subsidies, tax relief, and other incentives with good food finance practices including disclosure of impact on Nature and people, financing of new business models and innovative practices that safeguard natural capital, protect human health, and enhance agency of consumers, including underserved communities.
- Green budgeting—realignment of public budgets and of private-sector accounting practices, to reduce macrocritical (nonlinear, compounding) risk and to prepare for stress testing of financial institutions for viability in an economy that will not tolerate unfunded negative externalities.
- Public procurement—specific strategies for aligning public spending with relevant targets, metrics, practices, and supply chain innovation, and connecting to areas of action like Payments for Nature and cooperative de-risking.
- Repurposing subsidies for public good—national level, farm-focused, subnational policy support and financing, commodities incentives.
- Debt relief linked to food outcomes—to facilitate the flow of capital to climate-smart sustainable food system practices aligned with health and resilience of people, natural systems, biodiversity.
- Targeted tax adjustments—credits and waivers aligned with good food priorities, practices, and outcomes, with pollution pricing or fees for activities that generate unfunded negative externalities.
- Land value reassessment to account for soil carbon, ecosystem resilience, and other environmental values (this innovation draws on natural capital accounting and public policy incentives, but is specifically intended to enhance the financial position of good practice leaders in climate-aligned and nature-positive food production).
The Roundtable will be followed by consultations with leaders, network member institutions, technical advisors, and stakeholders, to shape specific elements of the innovation work. Over the next few months, the Good Food Finance Network partners, members, and friends, will form Catalyst Groups that turn ideas into action, to accelerate the mobilization of finance for healthy, sustainable food systems.
A Working Dialogue of technical advisors and partners will take place in early October, followed by a ministerial meeting linked to the Annual Meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The GFFN will also convene a series of meetings at and around the COP26 U.N. Climate Change negotiations, focusing on enhancing national climate action policies through innovative food systems finance.
The Roundtable was to be held in New York City, in midtown Manhattan, adjacent to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meetings—to allow for convening executive leaders in finance and representatives of national governments, international agencies, and stakeholder networks. Due to local spread of the COVID-19 delta variant, and honoring the request of the United States government that all UNGA side events be held virtually, the organizers opted to hold this GFFN Roundtable 100% virtually.