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On the ground at the UN Climate Action Summit

White wall with World Economic Forum logos

The United Nations worked with leaders from around the world in 2015 to develop 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are set to be implemented by 2030. These goals represent a global plan of action to drive economic prosperity and social well-being while protecting the environment.

From September 23-27, 2019, world leaders gathered at the UN General Assembly in New York for the Sustainable Development Impact (SDI) Summit to review progress and identify measures to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

UN Climate Action Summit at the UN HeadquartersThe SDI Summit brought together leaders from governments, private sector, civil society and international organizations to ensure the 2030 deadline is met.

Maple Leaf Foods was among the private sector companies attending this summit, represented by Randy Huffman, Chief Sustainability Officer, and Tim Faveri, VP of Sustainability.

Many of the UN Sustainability Goals align with Maple Leaf Foods’ purpose and vision, including:

  • Goal #2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • Goal #5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Goal #12: Responsible consumption and production
  • Goal #13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Maple Leaf Foods is committed to its vision to be the most sustainable protein company on earth and supporting the UN’s mission to make a better tomorrow.

Tim Faveri documented some of his experiences at the summit, so you can have a glimpse into this historical event.

Sunday September 22, 2019 – Arrival

I arrived in New York and headed to a high-profile gathering called “Securing our Future: People, Food and Nature Solving the Planetary Emergency”. The event was co-hosted by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the Food and Land Use Coalition and the World Economic Forum who shared a new framework that identifies opportunities to transform food and land use systems to more resilient ecosystems. I was excited to hear that Harrison Ford would be speaking as he is on the board of the Nature Conservancy. They served the “Impossible” brand meatballs. Too bad our Lightlife or Field Roast products didn’t make an appearance!

UN Climate Action Summit at a conference titled "Securing Our Future"Their framework is relevant to Maple Leaf Foods as it ties in with our own goals. We are already focusing on making more nutritious food, regenerative agriculture, diversifying our protein supply and reducing our food waste as some of our many goals!

Heading back to the hotel to get a good night’s rest as I am looking forward to officially kicking off the Sustainable Development Impact Summit tomorrow morning!

Monday, September 23, 2019 – Day 1

The city was alive with excitement as we kicked off the UN Sustainable Development Impact Summit. Today, Greta Thunberg spoke at the UN General Assembly, which unfortunately I was unable to attend. Only UN delegates are permitted into the general assembly, so I had to catch up with her speech when it was posted online later.

UN Climate Action Summit - Nature Now DiscussionToday, I attended sessions and events that focused on transforming food through “nature-based solutions”. There are lots of nature conservation NGOs supporting this movement, such as Conservation International, Youth4Nature, Nature Conservancy and our partner, WWF. This was a more intimate session with smaller breakout hubs that had the ability to get more technical and specific.

Next up was a session hosted by the research organization CCAFS – Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security. This session focused on scalable solutions that address climate and food security in unison. This ties in perfectly with our carbon management program and the Maple Leaf Center for Action on Food Security!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019 – Day 2

Today kicked off with a big, retail announcement called 10x20x30 where 10 of the largest retailers (many of whom are current Maple Leaf Foods customers) are committing to engage 20 of their priority food suppliers to act and reduce food waste by 20 per cent by 2030. We are ahead of the curve with our 50 per cent food waste reduction by 2025; great job Maple Leaf Foods!

UN Climate Action Summit - Champions 12.3 banner

I attended the 2019 progress report for the Sustainability Development Goals 12.3 on Food Loss and Waste. I found that overall the progress is slower than I would like to see, especially with the lack of goals that have been set by national governments. Canada needs to step up! I am proud of our commitment from Maple Leaf Foods for food reduction, but we are unfortunately among the minority.

Later, I met with members from CDP North America, which is an organization that represents investors and manages a public reporting platform on company greenhouse gas emissions. I met them at their New York City office to discuss supply chain engagement on our Scope 3 (supply chain) greenhouse gas emissions. This is something that is new to Maple Leaf Foods’ radar and we are building a plan to track and measure our supply chain emissions.

Finally, I attended an early evening session by Globescan on leading consumer research on health and sustainability. They are using consumer insights and behaviour for brands to drive positive impacts on healthy and environmental issues. The panel consisted of WEF, VISA, PepsiCo, Ikea and Anheuser-Busch InBev. It was an insightful session to say the least.

As the world comes together to find ways to combat climate change, I was proud to be representing Maple Leaf Foods at the summit and meet other leaders on their own sustainability journey. We are ahead of the curve when compared to other companies, but I still believe we have a long road ahead of us. Becoming the most sustainable protein company on earth has its own challenges, but I am excited to continue to drive change in our industry and Raise the Good in Food.