There are durable returns to be found in deep research.
So if you’re taking the time to integrate a full understanding of environmental, social, and governance issues in your investments, you will tend to end up with innovative and enduring solutions just by doing the work. So in this episode, we decided to spend some time with a significant, oft-neglected issue: food systems.
We were fortunate to have Ambassador Ertharin Cousin on hand to direct our exploration. Named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people, she was previously Executive Director of the UN World Food Program, which is the world’s largest humanitarian organization. She is also a visiting scholar at Stanford and the Founder/CEO of Food Systems for the Future, which invests in and provides services to market-driven food and infrastructure enterprises to improve nutrition outcomes for low income communities.
We’ve excerpted some of her comments after the message below, but you should really listen to the whole thing.
Here are a few choice excerpts from our conversation. You can also read the whole ai-generated transcript by clicking here.
“Let’s look at it from an economic standpoint. FAO estimates that the gross value of agricultural production is over $5 trillion. The World Bank says it’s closer to $3.2 trillion. Whichever number, it’s a big number. And the world bank also suggests that the system generates two to five times as much value off-farm between farm and consumer as it does on-farm. In the United States for every dollar spent on food by the U S consumer 11 cents, is accounted for in farm activity. And all of the other value is in the middle. So the estimated value of the global food system post farm to consumer is about $8 trillion or 10% of the $80 trillion global economy.” (26:52)
On the types of investments that might be attractive to pension funds:
“We know that we need investment in more foods that will meet cultural demand, but also healthier outcomes for populations. And there we have seen how how plant based proteins coming online have brought in additional have brought in significant revenue to those asset managers who have invested in that space. But those products are not coming online in support of the consumers that we are most concerned about who are most detrimentally impacted by the food system today.” (33:23)
On what individuals can do to address food insecurity:
“Many of your listeners are high net worth individuals, we need their support to invest in organizations like FSF, like Root Capital and Acumen and others who are working to address these challenges with new market based tool that will deliver evidence that is required to grow the agricultural productivity of our food system in a manner that is sustainable. And as I said, not just for the affluent, but for everyone.” (37:10)