The path for a strong business response to COVID-19 and the inequities of our food system

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16 July, 2020


WBCSD insights



David Nabarro, Diane Holdorf

Business as driver for food system recovery

Now more than ever, business has the imperative to address inequity through effective, responsible and sustainable action. This is already a deeply complex time for companies navigating dramatic changes, making hard choices with insufficient information and inability to forecast. But with government safety nets weakened or absent, it becomes a principal responsibility for business to protect and support workers across value chains to enable a resilient food system recovery. We’ve seen examples during COVID-19 of companies doubling-down on their efforts to protect employees, farmers and producers, enhancing flexibility to keep essential supply chains working and partnering to address dangerous disruptions of vital supply chains faster – and at scale.

Social equity as an imperative

COVID-19 prompts us to confront the reality that the functioning of our societies rests on a tolerance for people living in extreme of poverty, powerlessness and injustice. This is shockingly evidenced by the inequities of our food system. Essential workers, farmers and suppliers who do the hard work to produce the food we eat are too often paid the least and endure the biggest risks. Infection rates continue to soar, in many countries, (particularly among people with low incomes) while they do their best to strengthen their defences against the emergence of new outbreaks.  National economies are in recession, many small and medium enterprises are failing, debt is increasing and people’s poverty, hunger and distress increases everywhere.  Business support for building equity and resilience in all food and livelihood systems is urgent.

Protecting employees is a priority

  • David Nabarro is co-director of the Institute for Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London and serves as a Special Envoy of the World Health Organization for the COVID-19 response
  • Diane Holdorf is Managing Director, Food & Nature at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development