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Report: billions’ worth of investment needed to unlock SDGs

Report says $320bn of investment could be worth $3.2trn annually and could generate 80 million jobs by 2030.

A new report commissioned by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission warns that much more capital investment – billions of dollars’ worth – is needed to meet the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to food.

The report states that $320 billion is necessary to fulfill the 14 food-related SDGs, but that current assets under management of investment funds focused on “ecological and regenerative agriculture and food system” barely eclipse $500 million.

More broadly, the 31 leading agricultural funds have a capital base of just under $4 billion, less than 1.5 percent of the annual investment requirements.

“Yield growth has steadily fallen due to a combination of land degradation, yield growth approaching current agro-ecological potential in many countries, and a lack of investment in innovation,” the report states.

The report argues that the full implementation of the 14 SDG opportunities could “could be worth over $2.3 trillion annually for the private sector by 2030” and could generate almost 80 million jobs by 2030, representing about 2 percent of the forecasted labour force – and 90 percent of which are located in developing countries.

But that would require the required investment as well as drastic changes in business practices, according to the report. It points to product reformulation, dietary switches, boosting R&D investment and various food innovations – such as increasing the productive capacity for cereals and vegetables, and/or pork and poultry – as areas of focus. 

“This underinvestment in innovation in agriculture is sizeable – for example, agriculture represents 10 percent of global GDP, but applied genetics technology (AgTech) accounts for only 3.5 per cent of global venture capital funds,” the report reads.

In order to meet the requirements businesses will need to implement “radical departures from current approaches”, involving engagement with public policy, internalising social and environmental costs, product innovation and driving sustainability through the supply chain.

Launched in 2015, the 17 total Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to end poverty and hunger, reduce inequality, and tackle climate change, by 2030.