From the Beard Foundation 2013 conference-planning meeting – the focus this year will be ‘appetite’ – to the screening last week at the Ford Foundation of A Place at the Table, the importance of food as central to a sustainable future is becoming ever clearer.
As Hurricane Sandy shifted the national conversation in the closing days of the U.S. 2012 presidential campaign, so too has the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School interrupted the partisan machinations over government spending and taxation. As we look forward to 2013 and beyond we thus have a rare moment to reflect and observe that these issues share a common root: the respective roles of government and business to shape our future as people and as a national community.
As I prepare for meetings next week in London, and a presentation to Unilever, I wonder what I will be asked about the U.S. election – how to make sense of it. The explanations and interpretations are many.
Responding to a comment from Joe Nocera about Howard Schultz’s unique background, both as the company founder and a kid from Brooklyn who grew up in public housing, I reframed the question back to the link between organizational and leadership values – and perceptions of time.
Markets may well be the most finely tuned mechanism we have for allocating resources efficiently around short-term costs and prices. But absent a robust framework of social and cultural values and priorities to channel market operations these efficient markets will lead to vast inequity and depletion of critical resources.
In my closing remarks at the Sustainable Food Laboratory Summit I explained that I did not think sustainability was a goal, a metric, or even an approach to doing business. Rather, it is a principle. And it has at its core a fundamental rethinking of space and time.
It became clear in talking with farmers, ranchers, businesspeople, chefs and public advocates during the Sustainable Food Laboratory summit that there is a ‘goodness’ premium associated with these three linked terms. It was equally clear that few people have a clear sense of what these terms mean, beyond an evocation of being different and somehow better than conventional produce.
I have worked with Jonathan to full satisfaction on a number of small, strategic projects. He is a creative thinker with a deep understanding of the intricacies of sustainable agriculture and with a keen eye for business value.
Jan Kees Vis
Global Director Sustainable Sourcing Development, Unilever