Photo by Nozee Le Snoop/FlickrCC
A year ago I sat in a room at the Earth Institute at Columbia surrounded by executives from big food companies. One of them, I believe from Unilever, clicked to a slide that read "The solution to global hunger is to turn malnutrition into a market opportunity." The audienceâglobal development practitioners and academics and other executivesânodded and dutifully wrote it down in their notebooks; I shuddered. The experience stayed with me and I haven't gotten over it. Last month, I had a flashback.
On a Tuesday evening I sat in a room on the 44th floor of a building in the financial district of lower Manhattan with representatives from General Mills, Monsanto, Dean Foods, Deutsche Bank, and the Rainforest Alliance. We were there to speak to institutional investorsâthe hedge fund managers, bankers, and others who invest in big food companiesâabout sustainability and food. In particular, we were there to talk about how sustainability and hunger issues may give these companies both exposure to risk and access to opportunity.
It was not your average sustainable food panel discussion. Reflecting back on it, three things jump out at me. The first was a false premise that is taken for fact. The false premise: