Striving for Sustainability in Global Food Systems

Credit: GRI

By Margarita Lysenkova
AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands, Jul 15 2021 – As the global community gears up for the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit in September, it is significant that preparations are also underway by Global Reporting Initiative to deliver a new sector reporting standard for agriculture, aquaculture, and fishing.

The Summit aims to leverage the power of food systems to deliver progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yet, unlocking the contribution of companies in the food production sectors will be impossible without clarity on their sustainable development impacts.

Part of GRI’s Sector Program, which aims to deliver 40 Sector Standards over the coming years, the exposure draft version of the Sector Standard for Agriculture, Aquaculture, and Fishing is currently out for public comment. The Sector Program has a remit to provide the global best practice for transparency within sectors, helping organizations meet stakeholder expectations for comprehensive and comparable sustainability reporting.

We are prioritizing agriculture, aquaculture and fishing because these sectors provide for basic and essential societal needs: food, most obviously, but also raw materials, such as fibers and fuels. They also have shared and overlapping materiality, which steered our rationale for bringing them under one umbrella.

The Standard will add to the reporting landscape for the sectors, bridging the gap on sector topics where stakeholder expectations are evolving and scrutiny is increasing. It will deliver disclosures that consider biodiversity and natural resources, measures to mitigate climate change, as well as how to adapt farming and fishing practices in ways that minimizes their negative impacts.

This focus closely dovetails with the objectives of the Food Systems Summit, for which the pre-summit activity starts in July. The UN articulates the aims as ensuring access to safe and nutritious food for all; shifting to sustainable consumption patterns; boosting nature-positive production; advancing equitable livelihoods; and building resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks, and stress.

Margarita Lysenkova. Credit: GRI

Research and rationale

The draft Standard’s content is the culmination of more than 12 months of rigorous research by our Sector Team, drawing on authoritative sources and a multi-stakeholder process. A 19-member expert working group was instrumental in developing the exposure draft.

Reflecting diverse backgrounds, it includes representatives from five continents and constituencies, with a unique combination of sectoral skills and organizational experience, including crop and animal production, aquaculture, and fishing.

The proposed Sector Standard will help companies increase recognition and understanding on their shared sustainability challenges. It includes relevant reporting topics that are covered by GRI’s (sector-agnostic) topic-Specific Standards – for example, climate adaptation, biodiversity, waste, food safety, and occupational health – as well as introducing seven new topics.

By including topics not covered by existing GRI Standards, we have expanded the breadth of reporting guidance for agriculture, aquaculture, and fishing organizations to identify their most significant impacts – thereby supporting decision-useful data that can be a catalyst for the adoption of more sustainable practices.

The seven new topics

The newly introduced topics in the draft Standard are:

    1. Food security recognizes the sectors’ central role in food production, guiding organizations to describe commitments to ensure their operations contribute to stability of food supply and access to food, including how they work with other organizations.
    2. Land and resource rights calls on companies to report how they respect individuals’ and communities’ land rights (including those of indigenous people). It also asks about their operations and suppliers whose access or rights to natural resources cannot be assured.
    3. Living income addresses whether companies provide enough for workers and producers supplying to them to afford a decent standard of living. The topic also deals with reporting on the proportion of employees paid above living wage.
    4. Natural ecosystem conversion covers policies, commitments and monitoring tools to reduce or eliminate activities that change natural ecosystems to another use or profoundly change an ecosystem’s structure or function.
    5. Soil health guides reporting on soil management plans and fertilizer application.
    6. Pesticides use focuses on how organizations manage and use chemical or biological substances for controlling pests or regulating plant growth.
    7. Animal health and welfare addresses the approach to animal health planning and use of welfare certification schemes or audits, as well as disclosing the use of any medicinal or hormone treatments.

Grounded in the SDGs

With positive and negative impacts that link to the SDGs, all of the topics covered in this Sector Standard, and the way it is structured, will make it easier for businesses to understand their contribution to the achievement of the SDGs – and how they can contribute towards solutions.

Perhaps more than any other sector, agriculture, aquaculture, and fishing organizations have wide-ranging impacts that touch on all of the 17 SDGs. In particular, this new Standard makes multiple linkages between topics and goals on ending poverty (Goal 1); ending hunger (Goal 2); ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation (Goal 6); promoting decent work for all (Goal 8); reducing inequalities (Goal 10); ensuring sustainable consumption and production (Goal 12); taking climate action (Goal 13); protecting life below water (Goal 14) and life on land (Goal 15); ensuring peace and justice (Goal 16); and building partnerships (Goal 17).

We need your input

The global public comment period to gather feedback on the exposure draft for Agriculture, Aquaculture, and Fishing Sector Standard closes on 30 July. We encourage you to channel your considerations on this draft’s feasibility, completeness, and relevancy by completing an online questionnaire. The more input from all interested groups and stakeholders, the more we can do to ensure the delivery of a Standard that is fit-for-purpose.

Our hope for the final Standard, which we intend to launch in 2022, is to empower organizations to achieve meaningful and consistent sustainability reporting that supports sustainable food systems and encourages responsible fishing and farming practices.

We all know that companies within these sectors are essential for providing the food and resources that human wellbeing depends on. Let’s ensure that they can do so in a way that contributes to lasting and sustainable solutions.

Margarita Lysenkova joined GRI Standards Division in 2019 and has been instrumental in the development of the new Sector Program, contributing to the GRI Oil and Gas Sector Standard and leading the pilot project for the Sector Standard for Agriculture, Aquaculture, and Fishing.

With a professional background in corporate, UN and non-for-profit sectors across four countries, Margarita’s expertise spans international labour standards and sustainability. Previous roles include working for the International Labour Organization in Geneva, and in financial reporting with a Belgian multinational. Margarita holds degrees in economics (Saint Petersburg University of Economics & Finance) and business management (ESC Rennes School of Business).

ABOUT GRI
Global Reporting Initiative is the independent, international organization that helps businesses and other organizations take responsibility for their impacts, by providing the global common language to report those impacts – the GRI Standards

 


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The writer is Manager – Sector Program, Global Reporting Initiative

Sweegen’s Bestevia® Rebaudioside M Approved in Europe

Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., July 15, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Sweegen's footprint in Europe became stronger after the European Union Commission published its approval of Sweegen's non–GMO Signature Bestevia Rebaudioside M (Reb M) for use in food and beverages.

The approval of Sweegen's Signature Bestevia Reb M leads the future of wellness in food and drink in Europe. Brands in Europe now have access to the best–tasting highly sought–after stevia sweetener. The availability broadens the toolkit for sugar alternatives to reimagine food and drink, opening new doors for creating healthy products for consumers.

"Sweegen's Signature Bestevia Reb M approval is a celebration of good health and wellness for product developers and consumers alike," said Luca Giannone, SVP of Sales. "This is just one of our many milestones in Europe to transform products for having a positive and lasting impact on our ever–evolving health."

Consumers are increasingly aware of the need to reduce sugar in their diets for better health. Yet, when they are making decisions for purchasing food and beverages, consumers will ultimately select the brand with the best taste. Therefore, tackling the toughest sugar reduction challenges is a priority for brands as taste is the reason for repeat purchases.

The soft drinks industry in Europe is making a pledge to cut added sugars in Europe. The Union of European Soft Drinks Associations (UNESDA) announced on June 29 this year to reduce average added sugars in its beverages by another 10% across Europe by 2025.

In its further commitment to Europe, Sweegen has aligned the availability of its Reb M with commercializing the high–purity sweetener at its manufacturing facility in Europe. The facility is open in Europe for helping food and beverage manufacturers with rapid production and low cost–in–use sugar reduction solutions.

To compliment the approval of Reb M, Sweegen invested in designing and building its Innovation Studio in Reading, England, near London. The studio opened its doors in January 2021 with a full applications team to collaborate with food and beverage manufacturers on exploring the entire consumer landscape to understand what trends are driving consumer behavior, and then provide inspirational ingredients to represent those trend drivers.

"Our rapid innovation in application development enables our customer–focused solutions to help manufacturers create great–tasting, clean, natural, plant–based, sustainable products that meet today's end–consumer needs and desires," said Giannone.

Around the world, Sweegen's Innovation Studios are open globally: Southern California, Mexico City, Reading (London) and very soon in Singapore. These studios will leverage local tastes and knowledge while serving as creative centers to explore and discover product innovations motivated by consumer trends and regional tastes.

"Sweegen's global regulatory mission is the hallmark of opening new sugar reduction opportunities to manufacturers and brands for replacing sugar in foods and beverages, nutritional products, and many other market products world–wide," said Hadi Omrani, director of regulatory affairs. "Europe is an important region in our global regulatory vision as we continually forge the future of wellness in food and drink around the world."

Sweegen offers brands cost–effective and rapid innovation for sugar reduction solutions for beverage, dairy, savory and bakery with its Bestevia Taste Solutions for Europe.

Sweegen is the first company to receive the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) panel's safety status for any steviol glycoside produced by alternative and sustainable technologies. To achieve high purity clean–tasting stevia leaf sweeteners, Sweegen uses a bioconversion process starting with the stevia leaf. This process enabled Sweegen to obtain the Non–GMO Project verification for its Signature Bestevia stevia sweeteners in the U.S. market.

Bestevia Reb M was commercialized in 2017 and has already been approved in many regions around the world.

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About Sweegen

Sweegen provides sweet taste solutions for food and beverage manufacturers around the world.

We are on a mission to reduce the sugar and artificial sweeteners in our global diet. Partnering with customers, we create delicious zero–sugar products that consumers love. With the best Signature Stevia sweeteners in our portfolio such as Bestevia Rebs B, D, E, I, M, and N, along with our deep knowledge of flavor modulators and texturants, Sweegen delivers market–leading solutions that customers want and consumers prefer.

For more information, please contact info@sweegen.com and visit Sweegen's website, www.sweegen.com.

Cautionary Statement Concerning Forward–Looking Statements

This press release contains forward–looking statements, including, among other statements, statements regarding the future prospects for Reb M stevia leaf sweetener. These statements are based on current expectations, but are subject to certain risks and uncertainties, many of which are difficult to predict and are beyond the control of Sweegen, Inc.

Relevant risks and uncertainties include those referenced in the historic filings of Sweegen, Inc. with the Securities and Exchange Commission. These risks and uncertainties could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in or implied by the forward–looking statements, and therefore should be carefully considered. Sweegen, Inc. assumes no obligation to update any forward–looking statements as a result of new information or future events or developments.

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