COP26; What Is It and Why a Sustainable Food Industry Matters

Lady showing two children how to farm and plant crops

Climate change is real, it’s happening, and it’s something we are all conscious about.

The world is 1° C warmer than in the pre-industrial era, causing glaciers to melt, sea levels to rise, and rainforest destruction to name a few concerns. There’s still time to change the course of action. 

To avoid the point of no return, we must limit warming to 1.5°C by 2050. If we reach 1.5°C, we are at risk of a 1.5 feet rise in sea levels by 2100, 1 billion people facing extreme heat waves every five years, 100% increase in flood risk and crucial habitats will be no more. 

If there’s any silver lining, human activity is the cause of most of the damage, meaning human activity is the solution, mostly. There’s lots we can do to reduce our carbon footprint, but today we’ll highlight why a sustainable food industry matters and the impact on the environment. 

Firstly, we’ll fill you in on COP26:

What is COP26?

COP is short for Conference of the Parties, and COP26 is the 26th and upcoming annual climate change conference. The COP26 summit will bring the United Nations together to accelerate efforts towards achieving the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

You might be wondering why this 26th summit, in particular, has gained more notoriety than its previous 25 gatherings; the size and location of the conference might play a role in that. Held in Glasgow from the 1st until the 12th of November and with 30,000 attendees expected, COP26 is the largest summit the UK has ever hosted. 

COP26 will see diplomats from almost 200 countries come together with more aggressive goals and actions to reach the 2030 emissions reductions targets, aligning with the Net Zero emissions goal by 2050. Leaders will plan to phase out coal, reduce deforestation, switch to electric vehicles and invest in renewables. 

So, how does the food industry fit into tackling climate change? Let’s take a look: 

What Does a Sustainable Food System Mean?

Sustainable food doesn’t focus solely on the food item itself. There are many factors around the production, distribution and packaging of the food, for example, that determine whether your next meal is sustainable or not. 

In some situations, the careless production, delivery and consumption of a plant-based burger can be more harmful to our planet than a sustainably-conscious beef burger; so “sustainable” food is circumstantial. 

Defining sustainability in global food systems is highly complicated and intertwined, and by no means is it this black and white. However, the following factors can be used as very vague umbrella terms for most definitions of sustainable food production:

  • Sustainable Farming Systems
  • Food Miles – how far food travels
  • Animal Welfare
  • Use of Resources
  • Low Environmental Footprint
  • Animal Agriculture and Welfare
  • Healthy Employment Practices
  • Public Health Protection
  • Community Support

Why Sustainability in the Food Industry Matters

When told to think of the most significant causes of climate change or our environmental impact, our brains immediately take us to transport or deforestation, for example. However, food and agriculture are equally as, if not more, damaging than those two factors. 

Forestry, cattle and crop production currently cause 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions. On top of this, crops and livestock use approximately 70% of freshwater resources and occupy 60% of the earth’s land surface. 

Livestock farming accounts for 14.5% of global emissions, while agriculture is responsible for 75% of global deforestation. Since we are already running out of natural resources, our crisis will worsen in future generations and reaching Net-Zero by 2030 is completely unachievable IF we don’t change our habits and attitudes towards the way we produce our food. It’s no surprise there are urgent calls for leaders at a global level to make this a primary point of action at COP26.

Two of the most apparent effects of climate emergencies are extreme weather conditions and a temperature rise. These issues severely disrupt food supplies and accessibility, but our current food production practices also contribute to the problem; it’s a double-edged sword. They are also the cause of the world’s huge food inequalities, creating a divide between those who have access to healthy and nutritious food and those who, unfortunately, do not have this privilege. 

The population is due to increase by 34% to almost 10 million by 2050. Food production needs to increase by a massive 70% to provide substantial food to the extra 9.1 million humans. 

For this increase to be sustainable at any level and to limit the effects on the planet, we require immediate action on using less land, less water, less energy and tackling soil degradation and the destruction of biodiversity. 

We can’t confront the climate emergency, nor can we reach a Net Zero economy without fixing broken global food systems first. 

The Future of Food for Sustainable Businesses

On a positive note, we can make a huge improvement even with the slightest shift in behaviours. But, our aim is not slightly; the goal is a complete overhaul.

Changes towards a more sustainable approach to the production and consumption of food can begin immediately, and many countries are already paving the way for healthier and more planet-conscious food systems. 

By employing new or emerging technology and research, there are countless ways to ensure the future of the industry is sustainable. The UK is currently planning a deforestation-free supply chain, creating a food waste strategy, and drafting a long-term national food plan for all four nations. 

What does sustainable progress in the industry look like, and how can businesses adapt the way our food is produced and consumed for the greater good of reaching Net Zero?

  • Organic farming
  • Urban farming
  • Lab-grown meats
  • Sustainable diets; reduced meat consumption or plat-based
  • Reduction of food waste 
  • Sustainable fishing 
  • Eco-friendly packaging
  • Improve energy and water efficiency 
  • Local sourcing and organic food produce 

Eradicating a global issue will always be a tremendous task, but change is urgent. We can all start to make a change by reinventing the way we operate our small food businesses and our behaviours at home. 

Businesses can refresh their protocols to reduce their environmental footprint and maybe eventually operate with a carbon negative impact; that’s the dream!


If you’re starting up a sustainable food business, we have London commercial kitchens, dark kitchens and delivery kitchens to rent to suit your needs. Book a viewing at any of our London kitchen locations, or give us a call for details on how our spaces can help your sustainable brand succeed.

by Dephna

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