“The business community - from Small and Medium Enterprises to Multinational Corporations - has an important role to play to make food systems more sustainable.” Not the words of TOMRA Food (though they could be), but of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres at the first-ever UN Food Systems Summit, staged in New York on 23 September.
Addressing a global audience during this important one-day virtual event, the Secretary-General’s Statement of Action highlighted how food systems currently account for up to one-third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, up to 80 percent of planet Earth’s biodiversity loss, and up to 70 percent of freshwater use. And yet, despite these alarmingly unsustainable business practices, up to 811 million people in the world faced hunger in 2020, with over 41 million on the doorstep of starvation. This means action is not only needed; it is needed now.
Another speaker at the UN Summit was Peter Bakker, President and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), of which TOMRA Food is a member. Mr. Bakker said at the Summit: “There is no system where the climate emergency, the loss of nature, and growing inequality come together as in the food system. Incremental change is no longer enough. We need to transform the way we produce and consume our food . . . Business wants and needs to be involved in a clear and action-oriented process, both at the global level and in national pathways.”
The Head of TOMRA Food, Michel Picandet, commented: “The call on all sectors for leadership is clear and we at TOMRA have decided to play a role. Expect to see us active on many fronts, not only in Food but also in the Circular Economy, especially with packaging, where we are already very active.”
As part of its wide-ranging commitment to sustainability, TOMRA Food joined the WBCSD in November 2020. Michel Picandet explains: “Only a collaborative and systematic approach can achieve the required food system transformation. After signing the WBCSD’s Business Declaration on Food Systems, we have clearly identified levers where TOMRA’s contribution can make a difference. Addressing food waste and yield are of course, where we can have the biggest direct impact, with our food sorting and grading solutions at an early step in the value chain, but we are looking further than this. Our digital solutions, such as TOMRA Insight and the development of data analytics to inform food science solutions, will help enable the transition towards sustainable smart food supply and agriculture.
“Think, for example, of having access to blueberry grading data - this can help varietal development breeding for lower loss, less resource consumption and better value. Or think of dried fruits or nuts - our technologies can provide aflatoxin detection and other health benefits that help secure healthy and nutritious food distribution. Overall, TOMRA has a role to play upstream and downstream along the value chain. We can help greatly, not only with our technical expertise but also with our deep knowledge together with our customers and partners.”
With the UN expecting the world’s population to increase by two billion people over the next 30 years, minimizing food waste will become more important than ever. TOMRA’s sorting and grading solutions can already help increase produce yield by between 5-10 percent. Now that data is being unlocked from sorting machines by TOMRA Insight; efficiencies can improve further. As the Secretary-General stated at the UN Food Systems Summit: “We need to move boldly - now - to implement transformative actions... . Through ideas, engagement and action, we have hope for the future of food systems and a better world.”