Systems Thinking

Global Alliance Urges “Full and Unequivocal Commitment” To Measuring The True Cost of Food


Ahead of UN Food Systems Summit, Global Alliance Urges “Full and Unequivocal Commitment” To Measuring The True Cost of Food 

Open Letter Draws Signatures Representing Broad Coalition of Funders, Businesses, Policymakers, Food Producers + Advocates Calling for “Transformational” Change This Week 

Tuesday, September 21 – The Global Alliance for the Future of Food today released a call to action for delegates and attendees of the first-ever UN Food Systems Summit (this Thursday) to commit to accounting for the “true costs” of our food. Representing billions of dollars in funding and investment in sustainable food systems, hundreds of companies, food producers and civil society groups calling for food systems change, alongside climate and healthcare advocates, and specialist researchers and academics, signatories include the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, The Capitals Coalition, Planetary Health Alliance, Food Tank, Swette Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, amongst others. 

The letter is an urgent call to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Special Envoy Agnes Kalibata to ensure that True Cost Accounting is an imperative pathway coming out of the UNFSS:

Our organizations, which collectively represent multiple sectors, governments, advocates, investors, CSOs, and individual producers worldwide believe that to bring about change we must fundamentally redefine how we measure the real cost of our food. The UNFSS process must commit to measuring the true costs of food, and embrace a measurable systems approach with transparency and integrity. We write today to urge a full and unequivocal commitment to such an approach — “true cost accounting” and to redefining the value of food as an outcome of the UNFSS.

Food systems transformation addresses so many urgent and interconnected goals, from climate progress, nutrition, health, jobs, and food security to safety and global stability,” said Ruth Richardson, Executive Director of the Global Alliance. “We know that bold action — whether that’s through new metrics to inform decision-making to ramping up investment in solutions like agroecology — can have transformational effects across agendas for nations worldwide. We need global leaders to act boldly and embrace measurable, transparent approaches like True Cost Accounting to move us forward – especially with COP26 around the corner.”

True Cost Accounting is a dynamic policy making approach that captures all of the positive and negative impacts of food systems on our economy, environment and society. A recent report from The Rockefeller Foundation, a Global Alliance member, found that while the United States spends $1.1t annually on food, when the “hidden” impacts of the food system — from rising diet-related disease and accelerating biodiversity loss and increasingly precarious livelihoods — are factored in, the “true cost” of the U.S. food system is at least $3.2 trillion a year. At a global level, the costs are estimated to be USD $19.8 trillion per year.

In line with its commitment to championing inclusive, participatory governance of food systems, the Global Alliance has also formally joined an ambitious coalition for agroecology as part of the UNFSS, recognizing it as a key lever to transform food systems. Countries and public and private organizations involved are invited to step up as active members, aligning policies according to the 13 agroecology principles identified by the CFS High-Level Panel of Experts, redirecting investments, and more. 

At the Summit on Thursday 23 September, Richardson, as Chair of the Multi-Actor Food Systems Champions Network, will address UN delegates and Summit audiences. The network, which has been responsible for providing counsel to the Action Tracks, identifying gaps and key issues and participating in the country-level dialogues, is expected to issue a joint letter identifying the key themes and imperatives for global systems change. 

“Diverse networks and global coalitions stand ready to be the champions for food systems transformation,” said Richardson, “but UN and global leaders must also commit to transformational change – and to measuring the real costs of our food.” 

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The Global Alliance for the Future of Food is a strategic alliance of philanthropic foundations working together and with others to transform global food systems now and for future generations. We believe in the urgency of transforming global food systems, and in the power of working together and with others to effect positive change. Food systems reform requires new and better solutions at all scales through a systems-level approach and deep collaboration among philanthropy, researchers, grassroots movements, the private sector, farmers and food systems workers, Indigenous Peoples, government, and policymakers. 

Media contact:

Kasia Murphy, Communications Director
M: +34 676607 605