Press Releases, Economics


  • Policymakers flying blind in action on biodiversity loss without full picture of food system impacts
  • Simplistic yield-per-hectare productivity measures undermine long-term sustainability efforts
  • Multi-capital “true cost” accounting framework provides a roadmap to action
  • UN Biodiversity Summit an opportunity for transformative action on food systems
  • Case studies from around the world show new assessment tools are gaining traction

Tuesday, 29 September 2020 — Today the Global Alliance for the Future of Food launches The TEEBAgriFood Evaluation Framework: Overarching Implementation Guidance, a step-by-step guide to assess how food systems impact people, society, the environment, and natural resources. Supported by a rich inventory of case studies, the Guidance enables users to identify a range of actions that can transform how food systems operate and, simultaneously, helps to create a practical roadmap for action on biodiversity loss. The Guidance was developed in partnership with the Institute for the Development of Environmental-Economic Accounting and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Changing the tools used to assess food systems is an immediate way to take action that promotes human, animal, and planetary health. Simplistic economic productivity metrics like ‘yield-per-hectare’ mean that negative externalities — habitat destruction, soil erosion, water contamination, displacement of Indigenous Peoples, diabetes, and more — go unaccounted for in the final price of food, in policy documents, and on balance sheets (but the price is still paid). This also means that positive impacts — carbon sequestration, insect pollination, resilience to natural disasters, and vibrant communities — are hidden and can’t be enhanced.

The TEEBAgriFood Framework (“The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity”) is already being used by policymakers, investors, and farmers around the world to comprehensively evaluate their work, fill in the gaps, and make better decisions about the future. For example, a CONABIO valuation of maize production systems found that the lack of genetic diversity in corn grown in the USA and Canada — which makes them more vulnerable to pests and disease — resulted in yield losses of $27,403,616,604 between 2012-2015. Genetically diverse crop species are more resistant and not subject to the same type of losses.

Ruth Richardson, Executive Director, Global Alliance for the Future of Food: “As the pandemic challenges world leaders to confront the links between industrialized agricultural land use, habitat loss, and risks to public health, now is the time to seize new tools to inform policy and practice, leading markets towards healthy, resilient, and equitable food systems. Without being able to see the full picture of how food systems impact people and the planet, policymakers are simply flying blind in their efforts to deliver on the SDGs, climate, and biodiversity targets.”

Mark Eigenraam, Director at IDEEA Group and lead report author:
 “These ground-breaking guidelines are an important step towards transforming the world’s food systems. They provide practical steps for integrating natural capital with human and social capital to move beyond narrow measures of economic productivity. Business, government, and communities can now combine forces to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals related to poverty, food, health, and the environment.”

Dr. Salman Hussain, Coordinator, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, UNEP: “I am often asked by people interested in true cost accounting: ‘where do I start?’ I now have the answer. Authored by some of the great thought-leaders in food and agricultural systems, these new materials are a user-friendly and accessible resource for the community.”

The Guidance is supported by The True Cost Accounting Inventory. Developed by the Global Alliance, Soil & More Impacts and TMG ThinkTank for Sustainability, this free-to-use collection of methodologies, case studies, and valuation approaches is useful to researchers, civil society organizations, policymakers, farmers, and the private sector when conducting a ‘true cost’ or TEEBAgriFood assessment in the field of agriculture and food systems.

– Ends

About the Global Alliance for the Future of Food: 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.


Pavan Sukhdev, CEO, GIST Impact and President, WWF International: “We manage what we measure. Performance in food systems has conventionally- and most inadequately- been measured as per hectare productivity or per capita productivity. These new guidelines describe an alternative approach which measures the impact of food systems holistically: on farm profits, rural employment, human health, climate emissions, water use, soil fertility and biodiversity. Such ‘true cost accounting’ is vital to fix our broken food systems.”

Tobias Bandel, Managing Director, Soil & More Impacts: “To prevent the world from further degeneration, we need to take actions towards rewarding regenerative practices. Valuing and monetizing positive and negative impacts with the help of true cost accounting can demonstrate effects. In addition, it lays the groundwork for changing the rules of accounting and management decision making. Visible and scalable impacts are our chance to drive change.”

Alexander Müller, Managing Director, TMG Think Tank for Sustainability: “Today we are presenting a much-needed one-stop shop for everybody being interested in ‘true cost accounting’. For the first time, you can find all relevant information on the current state of TCA methodologies and a TEEBAgriFood implementation guide in one place. This information will help us to assess the true cost of our food including – all hidden external costs. The prices in the supermarket today do not tell the truth!“

Amanda Jekums, Program Coordinator, Global Alliance for the Future of Food and a report author: “If we are going to make real progress to mitigate the climate crisis and prevent devastating and permanent loss to biodiversity we must understand and account for the positive and negative impacts of our food systems and understand the risks and dependencies. Our health, safety, and security depend on it. We need less talk and more action, and this is how we do it.”