Accelerating True Cost Accounting
Food and agriculture systems have both positive and negative impacts on planetary health and human well-being. The ability to assess the impacts and dependencies the food system creates on natural, social and human capital is essential if we are to succeed in achieving the kind of balanced development sought by the Sustainable Development Goals.
Increasing awareness of these positive and negative impacts has been a priority for the Global Alliance from its outset. In 2015, we started working with the United Nations Environment Programme to convene over 150 scientists from 33 countries to develop The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Agriculture and Food initiative and, in 2018, the TEEBAgriFood Framework. This framework created a universal, inclusive, and comprehensive true cost accounting approach to describe the range of diverse and complex food and agriculture systems.
To advance the uptake of true cost accounting (TCA) the Global Alliance supported a TEEBAgriFood Framework proof-of-concept study: Ecosystems and agro-biodiversity across maize production systems in Mexico, carried out by the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO). Then 2016, we began convening individuals hailing from academia, NGOs, corporations, and policymaking all pursuing the goal of transforming food systems by making visible hidden costs and benefits along the food supply chain. Together, this community of practice identifies collective actions and opportunities, including the development of the step-by-step TEEBAgriFood Evaluation Framework: Overarching Implementation Guidance guidance to ensure consistency and coherence across TEEBAgriFood applications.
In late 2019, the community of practice launched a TCA Accelerator to strengthen and mainstream true cost accounting as the tool of choice to assess and shape sustainable food supply chains and to facilitate widespread adoption. The Accelerator intends to tackle two obstacles that today prevent TCA’s full adoption. The first is the lack of commonly agreed coherent principles, frameworks, metrics and operational guidelines to drive and orient food system transformation at different scales. The second is a limited understanding among key stakeholders of the value of TCA in shaping the policies, business practices, and decision-making processes underpinning food systems transformation. This work is hosted by the Global Alliance and led by a diverse and committed steering committee.