Climate change is bringing with it extreme weather conditions with increased frequency of storms, fires, droughts and uncertain availability of water and other natural resources. As a result, supply chain disruptions will become more volatile and while cost will increase, availability of goods may decrease, or at the very least, become more sporadic and less dependable. Consumers will be affected in various ways, too.
The natural products industry has been a pioneer in many areas of sustainable products, services and business practices. Now that it has grown into a mature industry, we need to ask ourselves if we are still at the forefront of these areas, or have we let our search for viability and profit cloud our leadership role?
What is the carbon footprint of the natural products industry? What are we doing individually and collectively to reduce it? How can we influence and lead our consumers to make wiser choices on their personal and collective carbon footprint? What do we need from governments to achieve our objectives?
In a little over a month, from November 30–December 11, 190 countries will meet in Paris, France, for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), along with NgOs, businesses and activists from across the globe.
This international environmental treaty was originally drawn up in 1992 at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the rio Summit. The purpose of this convention was to “set out a framework for action aimed at stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”
The upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP21) is the 21st session since 1992. I spoke with Jacob Scherr, senior advisor, international program at the Natural resources Defense Council (NrDC). He said, “This meeting in Paris has to be different because we are running out of time. It might be our last opportunity to get the world to move on to a low carbon future and avoid catastrophic climate change.” He recently returned from The 8th Convergences World Forum 2015 in Paris. He quoted French President Francois Hollande, speaking about COP21: “This is a major moment for the planet…we need solutions.” Scherr noted that this will be the first time the UN negotiations will drive a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, to keep global warming below 2˚ C.
He insists that it is not all gloom and doom, and it’s not too late: “What we need is a revolution—a rapid transformation…We need to focus this revolution toward transportation, manufacturing, housing, energy—and to food itself and how it is grown. This is where the natural products industry should be taking the lead.”
A world powered by renewable energy by the middle of the century is now a mandate. He uses the term “Climate revolution” to address an encouraging and dramatic increase in both solar and wind power, which has now reached job parity with coal in the US.
However, Scherr is clear that this is not enough. “We cannot wait for heads of state to make decisions for us.” This will be the first Internet COP Summit and he is emphatic that we all must participate in a groundswell of worldwide action—both as an industry and as individuals.
Many industries are already demanding a seat at the table in Paris. The natural products industry needs to work together as we successfully did with DSHEA and the USDA NOP. This time, we need to find our common ground around climate change mitigation and innovation. Working together, we can lead as we have done before, and chart the road for the industry and for our consumers, so as to keep us out front in the race against climate change.
Find out what is going on in your city. Communicate with your elected officials to see where you and your business can participate. get active in the political process, as it is critical to elect candidates who will ramp up climate change solutions.
For action steps, Scherr recommends The Climate Reality Project, which aims to bring a billion signatures to Paris. Also visit Nrdc.org.
Janice Hall is the president of Natural Network International, a business development, trends forecasting, marketing and brand-building company since 1991. She has been immersed in various capacities of the natural products industry for 36 years and has worked on sustainability and climate change issues since she attended the Rio Summit in 1992.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, November 2015