Participated in an event in Barcelona this Thursday arranged by CIES about the use if IT in the food retail sector to support a sustainable development. The possibility for the food industry to take a more proactive role in the climate/energy debate are fantastic and I’m a little more optimistic after the conference than before, but so far no clear entry point for me in the field.
The basic logic is simple, we all need food and instead of pushing unhealthy and low quality products they could focus their energy on transforming the retailing sector into a leading force in the transition towards a low carbon society. If for no other reasons they should explore this as they run the risk of being hit by random policies aiming at energy security and other measures link to issues that that the food retail industry today do not engage in. By engaging in resource efficiency, equity and climate change the sector could bring quality back and be a centre for solution based approaches.
At the same time it is difficult to see how this would be possible as the business is very decentralized compared to many other sectors, but this is a challenge that can be dealt with.
Reading FT on the airport it felt like campaigning material for the food sector to begin their proactive work. Record high rice prices and new all time high for oil (US$112) on the first page and then Barcelona’s water crisis on page three.
Having the three things at the same time, and especially rice, a staple food for about 3 billion people, is so symbolic that it gives me hope that even cynical decision makers will wake up and start thinking about real solutions, not symbolic green washing that only provide incremental changes in a situation where real change is needed. Also it might make people with a simple neoliberal trade agenda, including the World Bank, to be more careful with their recommendations.