Big Brands and Biodiversity Synopsis

Two posts below we listened to Jason Clay, Senior Vice President of Market Transformation from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), talk about the relationship between the environment and corporations controlling important commodities in our world market. These 15 commodities (palm oil, cotton, biofuels, sugarcane, pulp paper, sawn wood, dairy, beef, soy, fish oil/meal, salmon, shrimp, tuna, and whitefish), Clay discusses, come from our finite planet Earth. In 1990 we passed the line of living sustainably, and are currently living at a rate of 1.3 planets (4:25). This type of consumption is unacceptable and if humans have any chance of surviving as a race, we need to manage the way we consume.

The main problem that Clay discusses (starting at 8:30) is that sustainability must be a precompetitive issue. What this means is people who live in our Neoliberalistic, consumer driven society today, don’t have the time to or resources available to them to make conscious decisions about what products are being produced, manufactured, and sold sustainably. There are 6.9 billion consumers out there, as well as 1.5 billion producers, both of which are nearly impossible to control (9:55). What is possible to control and set checks and balances for, is the 300-500 companies that control 70% of the trade of these 15 most important commodities. Clay argues that consumers shouldn’t have a choice about purchasing sustainably produced products, except currently not enough is being done to hold all of these producers to sustainable standards.

As the population on Earth increases, efficiency and productivity are going to have to increase as well in order to support the exponential growth of humans. Unfortunately we are going to have to consume less in order to protect biodiversity and our fragile ecosystems. Out of those 300-500 companies, 100 of them control 25% of the trade in these top commodities. These 100 companies are some of the most powerful in the world because of the balance of profit and environmental responsibility they hold in their hands. Fortunately for planet Earth, what Clay is doing is creating roundtables that bring together producers all the way down to retailers discussing the sustainable growth of their products. These roundtables are just one way corporations are beginning to understand how much of an impact they have on the environment as well as how profitable it can be to produce sustainably.

By Max Grinberg