Jason Clay is senior vice president for food markets at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF )and launched the Markets Institute to identify and address global issues and trends in more timely, cost-effective ways. Over the course of his career he has worked on a family farm and in the US Department of Agriculture. He has taught at Harvard and Yale and then spent 15 years with human rights NGOs working with indigenous people, refugees and famine victims. In 1988, he invented Rainforest Marketing, created one of the first US fair-trade ecolabels, and set up a trading company within and NGO. He was responsible for co-creating Rainforest Crunch and more than 200 other products with sales of $100 million. From 1999 to 2003, he codirected a consortium with WWF, the World Bank, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the National Aquaculture Centres of Asia/Pacific to identify the most significant environmental and social impacts of shrimp aquaculture and management practices that measurably reduced them. Since then he has co-convened multi-stakeholder roundtables of producers, investors, buyers, researchers and NGOs to identify and reduce the impacts of salmon, soy, sugarcane, cotton, and beef. In the past, Clay has launched aquaculture, agriculture, and market transformation programs within the WWF Network. Most recently he has helped create corporate commitments around deforestation and more recently brought attention to global issues such as illegality, degraded land, and long-term contracts as a way to use the market to change it. He is the author of 20 books and is National Geographic’s first-ever Food and Sustainability Fellow. He was awarded the 2012 James Beard Award for his work on global food sustainability. Clay studied at Harvard University and the London School of Economics before receiving a PhD in anthropology and international agriculture from Cornell University.
Dairy sustainability: perspectives and challenges
We are continuing to consume the planet’s renewable resources at rates that cannot be replenished. In fact, we are currently living at a level of 1.5 planets and our resource use is still increasing.
The biggest threat to life on Earth has always been where and how we produce food. That will continue to be the case going forward. The challenge is to produce enough food for more than 9 billion people by 2050, when everyone on the planet will have 2.9 times the per capita income of today and double the consumption levels. The biggest threat to biodiversity and ecosystems services is food production due to agricultural sprawl. We need to intensify food production and produce more with less in absolute terms, not just at a per capita level—less land, water and other resources in absolute terms than we do today if we are live within the limitations of the planet. But, we have to do this sustainably—reducing our impacts on natural habitat and biodiversity, air, water and soil health.
We need to freeze the footprint of food by producing more nutrition with less land, water and other inputs. There is no silver bullet. We will need to work at the issue from several sides. We need to increase productivity and efficiency on the one hand while reducing food waste and loss and shifting consumption patterns on the other. No single strategy will solve the problem, by combining them we can achieve the results both we and the planet need.
The demand for dairy is expected to increase by more than 50% by 2050. If we continue business as usual, the industry’s impacts on biodiversity, ecosystems and other key indicators will increase as well. Actions at speed and scale are needed to reduce the absolute impacts of the dairy industry globally.
Sustainability is a journey, but neither producers nor sectors need to approach this issue alone. Sustainability is a precompetitive issue. We can work together to find solutions, share information and learn more quickly than ever before because the speed of change is faster today than ever.