Eating with Integrity: The art of transparent sourcing
The second article in the series, Eating With Integrity, co-authored by Udi Lazimy and T. Callahan of Lazimy Regenerative Impact Partners, dives into transparent sourcing as a fundamental facet of building a food system with integrity
Before we can have an honest conversation about the food we eat, we have to talk about where our food comes from. Transparency is a fundamental pillar in sustainable sourcing, and proves fundamental in facilitating other pillars such as sustainable production and fairness of trade.
More than a quarter of the workforce on our planet work in agriculture – the majority of which are smallholder farmers, many of whom are still subsistence growers. That’s nearly one billion people, according to the FAO. Traditionally, global markets have done little to protect the integrity of these communities, often making it frustratingly difficult – if not downright impossible – for consumers and brands alike to trace their supply chains back to the source. Importantly, consumers are starting to demand more from the products they consume.
Thanks to an increasingly connected world, suppliers who were once isolated are finding innovative ways to connect with markets around the globe. This provides an incredible opportunity for the market to live up to what we believe it means to eat with integrity. As an example, when we provide sustainable sourcing solutions to food brands, we are able to connect with farmer cooperatives and social enterprise groups on the ground in communities throughout our global network, understanding their needs and directly supporting them through transparent supply partnerships.
As globalization increases, an ethical food system demands farmers, processors, distributors, and consumers are informed at critical junctures along the way. Sourcing ingredients transparently means knowing if valuable carbon-rich ecosystems like rainforests were cleared in order to produce them, or if corrupt or even genocidal regimes benefited from their sale, or whether children were forced into labor to produce them.
The agri-food industry simply cannot be sustained if it continues to enrich a consolidated few while leaving downstream producers in a cycle of poverty. More importantly, neither can the planet. True transparency will demand we diversify and decentralize food systems where possible; a welcomed antidote to the opaque nature of global trade as it exists in large part today.
The advent of technologies such as the blockchain present new and exciting opportunities to strengthen supply chains in areas that once permitted gross negligence and even malfeasance to determine the status quo. While consumers have a right to know how their products are sourced, it remains to be seen which brands will implement cutting-edge solutions, setting the tone for the industry at large. The industry simply cannot be sustained if it continues to enrich a consolidated few while leaving downstream producers in a cycle of poverty. More importantly, neither can the planet.
While decentralizing may sound destabilizing to some, it can be useful to frame it another way: democracy. As technologist and proud maverick, Kyle Humphrey, echoes in his piece Feeding the Future, “Technology can empower communities and individuals to take control of their food supply, challenge the power of the food industry and lobby, and create a more diverse and democratic food system".
Indeed, many brands have increasingly been exploring and implementing transparent sourcing programs, and we are thrilled when a company turns to our team for help to achieve transparency in their supply chains. From working to develop regenerative crop production systems with social enterprise farmer organizations in Southeast Asia to meet the demands of Western consumers, to ensuring that a plant-based food company in the USA has traceable, domestically produced, functional proteins for its formulations, we continue to demonstrate a more transparent sourcing program is both in demand and achievable. We welcome the opportunity to help brands live up to the standards that will define a more sustainable and ethical future.
When it comes to food, there is a lot at stake: our health, the health of our local economies, even the health of the very planet on which all of this is supported. How we choose to do business will do more than impact the world around us, it will determine the legacy we leave. As technology threatens to divide us further or bring us closer together, we have a choice of leading with integrity through transparency, or stagnating in the status quo. The former will represent the future of food.
The series explores fundamental facets of the modern food system, covering topics ranging from diet and nutrition, sourcing and supply chains, to the intersection of food and climate. With over 20 years leading sustainable food system policy and innovation at companies and organizations like Eat Just, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Beyond Meat, Organic Farming Research Foundation, Patagonia and others, Lazimy Regenerative Impact Partners hopes to encourage new approaches to the challenges that face our food system with an emphasis on the burgeoning plant-based industry in particular. Readers are encouraged to learn more at www.udilazimy.com
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