The recent Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARES) Outlook 2023 conference, organised by ABARES, focused heavily on critical issues facing the sector, including global uncertainties, labour market issues, and biosecurity. The conference emphasised the significance of Australia’s food and agribusiness sector and the potential of the Australian food system to address global challenges. In light of this, Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL), The Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre, organised a webinar to explore these issues further and examine how the sector can contribute to broader sustainability goals. The webinar reinforced the potential of the sector to value-add more than A$200 billion by 2030 by unlocking 19 growth opportunities which are aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The session brought together participants across the value chain including representatives from Fight Food Waste Ltd and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation. Cheng Wei Swee, Senior Manager at Access Partnership, provided insights from the “Capturing the Prize” report and a mapping of the 19 growth opportunities to the 169 SDG targets.
Access Partnership’s analyses indicate that the pursuit of the growth opportunities can result in a mutually beneficial outcome for Australia through potential contributions to the country’s SDG journey. However, realising this potential also requires support from key stakeholders within the sector. Firstly, all 19 opportunities can be mapped to the 17 SDGs, with 343 identified linkages to the SDG targets. For instance, developing initiatives in growth opportunities such as “Energy Smart Food”, “Food Loss and Waste”, and “Urban Agriculture” contribute to the progress of SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, by meeting targets such as the enhancement of scientific research, adoption of clean technologies and the promotion of sustainable industrialisation. Secondly, opportunities which are post-farmgate lead the way in having the greatest number of linkages to the 17 SDGs. The top two opportunities, “Sustainable Inputs” and “Sustainable Packaging” are post-farmgate activities, highlighting the positive impact that the pursuit of manufacturing-related opportunities can have on the SDGs. Nonetheless, given that opportunities are spread across pre- and post-farmgate activities, it is crucial to direct efforts across the entire value chain to maximise benefits for the sector. Thirdly, due to the scale of these opportunities, it is critical that key stakeholders in the sector work together to achieve sustainable progress. It is encouraging that FIAL has been working with government agencies, industry and NGOs on targeted funding programmes, detailed implementation plans and tracking mechanisms for all the 19 growth opportunities. In particular, FIAL has been driving the growth of Australian Food and Agribusiness clusters since 2018, providing funding for businesses to actively encourage innovation and building the sector’s capabilities. Given that we are only 7 years away from the 2030 target of achieving the SDGs, it is crucial to leverage such “win-win” situations and enhance partnerships not only in Australia but also globally.
Access Partnership has worked extensively on studies relating to the SDGs and Australia. Examples include partnering with the Business and Sustainable Development Commission (BSDC) and Temasek on the “Better Business, Better World” reports; the World Economic Forum (WEF) on “The Future of Nature and Business”; the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Food Industry Asia (FIA) on “Perceptions on Plastic Waste in Southeast Asia”; as well as Google on the impact of digital technologies on tackling societal challenges in Australia. These studies have highlighted pertinent sustainability challenges and how key stakeholders can collaborate to mitigate them. Reach out to Cheng Wei and Chailyn Ong if you are keen to further discuss these topics.