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Business, Climate, and White House Action As the U.N. Meets

Columns 2022-09-23, 9:48am

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Danielle Nierenberg



Danielle Nierenberg

Greetings from New York City!

The U.N. General Assembly is meeting here this week alongside Climate Week. Folks are coming together from all over the planet—policymakers, activists, nonprofits, and so many others—to delve into what we need to do to solve the climate crisis.

I had the chance to emcee an interesting dinner led by Wholechain, founded by Food Tank’s friends Mark Kaplan and Jason Berryhill. They’re amazing social entrepreneurs working to make our food and agriculture systems more transparent and, in turn, more traceable. We need companies to step up to the plate—and these folks are part of making that happen. I had the chance to talk to people from companies like Akua Kelp, which makes delicious kelp burgers, Grain4Grain, which creates upcycled flour from spent grain, and so many others who are making products that are both environmentally and socially sustainable.

The private sector can’t just be in it for profit. So many small- and medium-sized companies are leading the way on these issues: From the day they launch, they’re starting out with mission statements that put the environment and social justice on the forefront. And then it’s the big companies, the large corporations, that are trying to catch up to these smaller companies by putting commitments in place.

But here’s what we need to watch out for: I hope that, when large companies adopt these commitments, they’re not just greenwashing—or greenwishing, by saying, ‘I hope these commitments we’re making by 2050 actually come to fruition!’

It’ll be too late by 2050! We can’t simply wish for a greener world in 30 years — we need commitments that policymakers, companies, and so many of us can act on now. We have to make these commitments more urgent and real, whether that’s pushing for deforestation-free soy or beef, or whether it’s using upcycled ingredients from food manufacturing. We need to start thinking of this as the norm, and not the exception.

The power of urgent action is what I was fortunate to discuss with activist and "Orange Is The New Black" star Alysia Reiner on the Food Talk podcast this week. She's a powerful advocate for the arts, for reducing food and plastic waste on film and TV sets, for using love—not fear—to inspire action, and more. I really hope you'll listen to our conversation by CLICKING HERE.

Next week, I’ll be in Washington, D.C., for the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The last time the White House held this kind of conference was in 1969, so this is long overdue. And from what I understand, the administration will be announcing a national strategy that identifies steps to catalyze the public and private sectors to address the links between food and hunger, nutrition, and health. So stay tuned: I’ll have more to say next week about what we hear and see at the conference.

I really hope the conference is diverse—that there’s a wide range of viewpoints and opinions. And that it’s not just academics and advocates, but people with lived experience who’ve been doing this ground-up work for so long and really know what communities want and need. And I sincerely hope the administration listens to them, so we can build a better national strategy.

What kinds of topics do you want to see discussed at the White House conference? Whose voices do you hope to hear? We’ll be there on behalf of all Food Tankers like yourselves around the globe, so please chat with me at danielle@foodtank.com and let me know how I can be your eyes and ears on the ground in D.C.

(Danielle Nierenberg is President Food Tank and can be reached at danielle@foodtank.com)