Geneva, 13 October 2023 – The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has officially joined the Nutrient Density Alliance, which offers the opportunity for multistakeholder collaboration essential to achieving a healthy and sustainable food system for all.
Bolster the link between regenerative agriculture and crop nutrient density
A critical step to achieve a healthy and sustainable food system transformation is to empower eaters with information about the impacts of agricultural production. To date, messaging toward consumers has focused mainly on how agriculture affects the environment and nature. But to compel people to make even more sustainable food choices—and in turn incentivize farmer and manufacturer action on regenerative agriculture —we must also communicate and strengthen the scientific evidence that draws connections between how food is produced, nutrition outcomes and human health.
WBCSD member companies have already started linking regenerative agriculture and nutrient density, both in product lines and through research efforts. Stefania Avanzini, director of WBCSD-One Planet for Biodiversity (OP2B) said: “Establishing a scientific link between regenerative agriculture and improved nutrient density can unlock consumer understanding on the links between how food is produced and its nutritional benefits impacting consumer choices. It will strengthen the business case for regenerative agriculture from farm to fork.”
A partnership that makes knowledge actionable
To deepen collective knowledge on the link between regenerative agriculture and nutrient density and facilitate action, WBCSD joined the Nutrient Density Alliance (NDA), a new platform hosted by the Soil & Climate Alliance that aims to strengthen and promote the evidence base linking regenerative agriculture practices and nutrient density in crops. NDA is led by Tina Owens, who formerly led sustainability efforts for Kashi at Kellogg Company and regenerative finance at Danone North America.
“The Nutrient Density Alliance is delighted with the partnership and global stakeholder potential that is offered by WBCSD and their members. Many of the leading consumer goods companies in their ranks have pilots or significant programs around regenerative agriculture, but few have yet to take the benefits of increased nutrition to consumers. We aim to change that,” shared Jessica Hulse Dillon, Director of the Soil and Climate Alliance.
Healthy soils for healthy foods
A growing body of research underscores the importance of soil health on nutrients in crops and in turn, on human nutrition. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), “healthy soils are the basis for healthy food production”. Regenerative agriculture offers solutions to both protect soils and rejuvenate—including managing blue water withdrawals, pesticide and fertilizer usage, as well as habitats on farmed land. It is a holistic, outcome-based approach that generates agricultural products while measurably having net-positive impacts at the farm and landscape level. By better understanding how regenerative farming practices can lead to increased nutritional density, we are able to empower consumers, connect stakeholders along the food value chain and unite the public and private sectors to develop regenerative agriculture.
Unilever recently developed a paper reviewing the evidence on the potential for regenerative practices to enhance the micronutrient quality of crops, finding good evidence for increased zinc content in rice grown under practices that increase soil organic matter (an indicator of improved soil health) and an increased vitamin C content in tomatoes grown under deficit irrigation. The investigation into this subject follows Unilever's move to go to the next level on sustainability in agriculture, building on its existing sustainable agriculture program to implement regenerative practices in many programs in Unilever’s supply chains around the world.
Moving further along the supply chain, Chavanne Hanson, Food Choice Architecture and Nutrition Lead, Google, offers her insights on why strengthening this link is even relevant for food service outlets: "I am thrilled that WBCSD has decided to partner with the Nutrient Density Alliance (NDA). We know that eating a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods is one of the best things you can do for your health and overall wellbeing."
WBCSD will facilitate company action by linking its member companies in the food and agriculture sector with the opportunity to contribute to activities such as addressing regulatory hurdles in making nutrition claims, developing compelling on-pack messaging, and establishing alignment among existing regenerative agriculture verification processes. WBCSD’s partnership with the Nutrient Density Alliance offers the opportunity for multistakeholder collaboration, which is critical to achieve a healthy and sustainable food system for all.
For more information, please contact Melanie Levine, Manager, Agriculture & Food, WBCSD