Published on 01 December 2016
Author: Sarah Wynn
Following the release of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals there is increased pressure on businesses to consider what steps they can take to address the key issues around the social and environmental impacts of their business. Many of the UN goals focus on global social sustainability issues such as improving education, reducing poverty and ensuring access to clean water. However, there are also a number of environmental sustainability goals such as taking action on protection, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems with particular reference to reducing land degradation, habitat loss and impacts on biodiversity, ensuring that there is sufficient water available for all users and combating climate change. In addition the agreement reached as part of COP21 (the Paris Climate Change Conference) sets out a long term aim to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
The environmental challenges have particular relevance for businesses that have agricultural supply chains given that global agriculture was responsible for an estimated 5.2M gigagrams CO2e emissions in 2014, agriculture accounts for about 38% of the world land area and the FAO estimates that global agriculture uses 2,722km3 of water per year (or 69% of total water extracted).