Guy Singh-Watson (Riverford) and Sam Fulton (Nomad Foods – Birds Eye) unpick how our food system urgently needs to change. Hear how big agriculture has produced cheap food on mass but played havoc with our planet. Learn what companies are doing to protect our future, but importantly, what more can be done.
Guy Singh-Watson, Founder of Riverford Organics
Guy Singh-Watson has over the last 30 years taken Riverford from one man and a wheelbarrow delivering homegrown organic veg to friends, to a national veg box scheme delivering to around 70,000 customers a week. Tired of meetings, brands and the assumption that greed is our predominant motivation, Guy converted the business to employee ownership in 2018, using the proceeds to buy a small farm and return to growing organic vegetables.
In common with many of Riverford’s new co-owners, Guy is an advocate of using business to shape a part of the world, however small, to be kinder, more considerate and sustainable; more like the world most of us want to live in. His weekly newsletters connect people to the farm with refreshingly honest accounts of the trials and tribulations of producing organic food, and the occasional rant about farming, ethical and business issues he feels strongly about.
Sam Fulton, Group Director Corporate Affairs and Sustainability for Nomad Foods
Sam Fulton is Group Director, Corporate Affairs and Sustainability for Nomad Foods, Europe’s leading frozen foods company and owner of brands including Birds Eye, Findus and Green Cuisine. She joined Nomad Foods in 2020 from Apple where she led Corporate Communications across Europe.
Prior to this she spent almost 20 years in UK and international communications and sustainability roles for some of the world’s largest consumer goods businesses, including Unilever, McDonald’s, Nestle and Kellogg.
Guy: The impact our food system has on our soils, our health, biodiversity.
Guy: Our food system accounts for 50% plus of biodiversity loss and 25% of climate change
Sam: There needs to be a complete transformation of the food system and systemic change as required. We need to find a way to feed people more sustainably.
Guy: Agriculture represents 1.6-1.7% of GDP in the UK – which is extremely low considering its impact and our reliance upon it and argues that food cannot be produced sustainably at this level.
Sam: Nomad Foods uses sustainability sourcing standards to monitor their environmental impact (FSA Framing principles) and work with farmers to implement a plan. Nomad Foods also works with research partners to develop pilot projects for research purposes and use these learnings across other farms.
Guy:Remains sceptical on sustainability schemes which are not impactful enough and is critical of schemes that serves as corporate greenwash.
Sam: Growing sustainably is in the interest of Nomad Foods for its longevity. Building relationships with farmers and sharing learnings is how they approach rolling out more sustainable practices at scale.
Guy: Business and political planning timeframes are long enough. Transformative change requires a long-term view. Business investors can also add pressure on business to make decisions in the interest of profit as opposed to sustainability.
Guy: Carbon has been emitted from soil through deforestation and agriculture. The land needs replenishing to reverse this process and build nutrients before it is unable to grow crops. One way is to reduce the chemical fertilizers which damage the soil.
Guy: The unaffordability of food is down to a problem of poverty – not expensive food. Farmers get an unsustainable proportion of the value, and the proportional cost of food to income is much lower than previous generations.
Guy: Legalisation required: a carbon or fossil fuel tax; ban on neonicotinoids; reduce/remove soya and grain as ruminant animal feed. Grant payments for planting trees.
Sam: Legislative support would be helpful . It’s positive that there is more scrutiny over sustainability claims.
Food and Agriculture Organization for the United Nations – article referencing that smallholder farmers produce a third of the world’s food.
Climate Change Committee report to Parliament in 2022 that identifies the probability of the not meeting the Paris Agreement global temperature rise target.