Real Leaders

How Real Leaders Can React to the Unprecedented World Food Crisis

The world’s richest countries met at the G7 summit in Germany in June 2022. Among other pressing issues, food security and climate change were at the top of the agenda.

Climate change, and more recently the war in Ukraine, has been adversely affecting global food security, water, and hunger. To understand it better, Gabriela Bucher (pictured above), executive director of Oxfam International, explains how business leaders can help find solutions.

The food crisis we are facing is extremely serious and probably unprecedented. It’s a combination of many crises at the same time. We started with a pandemic, but underlying that is the climate crisis, which is having an impact on food security and extreme hunger. What’s concerning are the numbers of people affected by extreme hunger, even in rich countries. The world’s attention has been very much on the Ukraine conflict, and unfortunately, the hunger crisis has been growing in the last few months. If we don’t act fast, it will reach catastrophic levels.

Long-term planning is something that is missing as an integrated approach globally. We really need multilateral institutions to step up and make sure that our responses are joined up. We know from research and experts what needs to be done and how much investment is needed. What we need is the will and the coordination to make it happen.

A lot of announcements are made, and ideas come up about global food coalitions. But no concrete plans happen, no targets are set, and no funding appears. We know there are possibilities for raising funds through, for example, windfall taxes and wealth taxes. Presently, the vast majority of taxes across the world are income-related or consumption-related. Around 4% of the total tax revenue in the world comes from wealth taxation. This is an untapped source that would allow countries to invest in their own food security.

There are good examples of solidarity that we can see across history, but we need to double up on this in moments of crisis. There can be a tendency to look after our own, but that’s exactly when we need to think differently and realize that we are globally connected. We must understand that actions in one part of the world have impacts on other parts of the world.

193 million people are in famine-like conditions right now and growing. It’s important that we respond with immediate life-saving support, but also think long-term. I hope this urgency will spur business leaders, governments, and citizens to put pressure on the importance of investing in climate and adaptation, so that we have sustainable livelihoods going forward and can ensure that we have enough food for everyone.

Actionable Solutions to Help Feed the World

  • When we talk about food security, a lot of focus is only on one-dimensional food production. But climate change also impacts other dimensions such as access and utilization. Business solutions should be sought here too.
  • With all the environmental pledges made by countries and corporations added together, we would need 1.6 billion hectares of land — six times the size of India — to plant trees. This is clearly a near-impossible task, and lessening levels of consumption through innovative business ideas can be more effective. Explore leaner supply chains, less packaging, or seek scientific breakthroughs that allow you to use less and yield more.
  • There are many strategies, plans, and actions produced by expert groups and organizations on food security, such as the UN Food Systems Summit. Use these reports to spark ideas around new business opportunities and to spot gaps in the market.

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