Published: April 5, 2017

With 870 million people around the world without physical, social, or economic access to a sufficient supply of nutritious and safe food, establishing global food security is important to hundreds of millions of hungry people, to the sustainable economic growth of affected nations, and to the long-term economic prosperity of the United States.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it is estimated that the demand for food will rise by 70 to 100 percent by 2050 due to population growth, rising incomes and climate change. To meet this need, the United Nations estimates that food production in developing countries will need to almost double.

In “The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges” report released in February 2017, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned that diminishing natural resources and a changing climate have put humankind’s future ability to feed itself “in jeopardy.”

While there has been significant progress in reducing hunger over the past three decades, it has come at a heavy cost to the environment. As a result, the FAO advocates a shift to more sustainable food systems that make more efficient use of land and water and reduce the use of fossil fuels in agriculture.

From global access issues to local ethical questions

When accessing food is no longer the issue, as is the case for many people in affluent communities like Boulder, the conversation changes to questions of privilege, buying power and accountability for making sustainable food choices.

Leeds Professor Randy Johnston instructs the Accounting Ethics Senior Seminar in which he requires students to independently examine the ethical issue tied to food choice. “Food deserts are an issue, no doubt about it, but the bigger issues are your daily food choices: what you’re choosing and what the consequences of your food choices are,” Dr. Johnston says.

After taking the Accounting Ethics course and learning about the environmental impacts of commercial farming, Leeds senior Justin Mayo (FinAcct’17) says he was inspired to change his lifestyle and eating habits.

“Factory farming and animal agriculture contribute more to global warming than the entire world’s transportation sector. That means that if you shut down all transportation around the world, you would still be doing more than half the damage,” Mayo recounts. “Another thing people don’t think about with food is how much water goes into producing it, especially red meat,” he adds. “In Dr. Johnston’s class, we broke down how many gallons of water it takes to produce one hamburger [about 460 gallons for a quarter-pound of beef]. It was obvious that if I just stopped eating meat, I could make a huge difference.”

Mayo is quick to add that he is grateful to come from a place of privilege in which he not only has access not only to healthy food, but also to the information needed to make an informed decision about his diet. “I am a strong believer in the idea that ‘with great power comes great responsibility,’” he says. “Industry has become the most powerful force in the world, and as a result, I think it is on [industry] to solve these issues through business. There is more to it than adding two cents to the stock price in the fourth quarter, there’s a responsibility factor here.”


The Conscious Capitalism Conference presented by CESR

The 7th annual Conscious Capitalism Conference hosted by the Center for Education on Social Responsibility (CESR) at the Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado Boulder will address sustainable production and distribution channels of safe and healthy food taking current population and environmental contamination pressures into consideration.

The event, slated for April 10th, will cover large-scale sustainable agriculture, localized food accessibility, and food justice initiatives. Kimbal Musk, sustainability icon and co-founder of The Kitchen farm-to-table restaurant concepts, will speak about his work toward providing Americans access to real food.

Dorceta Taylor, a professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan, will present on her study of food access in Michigan and other parts of the country, as well as urban agriculture and food insecurity.  Her two most recent books include “Power, Privilege and Environmental Protection: Social Inequality and the Rise of the American Conservation Movement” and “Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution and Residential Mobility.”

About the Conference

For the past seven years, CESR has gathered students and industry leaders to discuss topics from social impact investing to values-based solutions in changing the world. On April 10th, 2017, CESR will host its 2017 Conscious Capitalism Conference on food security, specifically addressing sustainable production and distribution channels of safe and healthy food in the context of current population and environmental contamination pressures.