Rabobank – the world’s leading food and agricultural bank – announced Monday a new global activation program called Kickstart Food to accelerate the transition to a sustainable food supply. One of the first steps in this program will be the launch of a $1 billion facility to initiate land restoration and forest protection initiatives.
The facility is being launched in partnership with the U.N. Environment Program. It marks the start of a three-year initiative to kick-start and scale up Rabobank’s support for clients and partners in the transition to a more sustainable food and agriculture sector. The facility aims to provide grants, de-risking instruments and credit to clients involved in sustainable agricultural production, processing or the trade of soft commodities who adhere to strict provisions for forest protection, restoration and the involvement of smallholders.
The Kickstart Food initiative has four key focus areas: Earth, waste, stability and nutrition. This facility is part of the Earth focus area, which is centered on sustainable and environmentally sound food production. The waste component will focus on reducing food waste throughout the food supply chain. The stability program aims to create a more stable and resilient food and agriculture sector. The nutrition program will focus on ensuing a healthy and balanced diet for everyone.
“Our global lead role in financing food production urges us to accelerate developments on the sustainable food supply. With our knowledge, networks and financing capabilities we aim to further motivate and facilitate clients in adopting a more sustainable food production practice globally,” chairman of the executive board Wiebe Draijer said. “We will engage others to expand the initiative. It fits very well with our mission of growing a better world together.”
With this mission, Rabobank embraces the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. As the world’s population grows towards 9 billion, available arable land declines and with the impact of agriculture on climate change and the environment, food production is now at a critical juncture. Therefore, Rabobank is increasing its support for efforts to increase food production by at least 60% towards 2050 while reducing the sector’s environmental footprint by 50%.
Around the globe, Rabobank is actively promoting sustainability certification for its clients. The bank is also advising them on sustainable production methods and soil management. The facility together with U.N. Environment aims to offer grants and open the door for clients to initiate large-scale land restoration and forest protection projects. It positively affects their risk profile, which leads to easier access to loans.
Rabobank has already made significant progress in many areas. For example, in Brazil, Rabobank has been promoting and financing integrated crop, livestock and forestry farming. Working with the World Wildlife Fund and local partners, it will endeavor to restore underutilized or degraded arable land under the management of Brazilian farmers owning 17 million hectares (42 million acres).
Together with clients and partners like the U.N. Environment Program, the World Wildlife Fund and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Rabobank will increase and scale similar efforts around the world. A kickstart with Justdiggit will be prepared in Africa.
This joint effort with the U.N. Environment Program is designed to be an open platform for others to join. Rabobank invites stakeholders from across the entire food and agriculture sector to join the Kickstart Food program.
Draijer said the aim is to substantially increase the quality of existing arable land while protecting biodiversity and reducing climate change worldwide.
"It is clear that a different way of agricultural practices is needed that includes incentives and provisions to protect forest ecosystems and restore degraded lands if we are to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals as well as keep global temperature rises to below 2˚C, as agreed in the Paris Climate Agreement,” Draijer said.
“Support from industry leaders like Rabobank is an extremely important first step,” said Erik Solheim, head of the U.N. Environment Program. “We want the entire finance industry to change their agricultural lending, away from deforestation and towards integrated landscapes, which provide good jobs, protect biodiversity and are good for the climate. Sustainable land use and landscape restoration is also fundamentally about sound investments and good business. We want to speed up this trend so that it becomes the 'new normal' for the finance industry.”
“We need more initiatives that go beyond just talking about the issues at hand,” said Peter Bakker, president and chief executive officer of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). “For this very reason this partnership is to be commended as it gives financing possibilities to feeding the world while using agricultural lands sustainably. This is just the beginning, and we need other WBCSD members and major global players in primary production, the food industry and financial institutions to join this initiative and keep working on finding business solutions for climate smart agriculture.”
Halting climate change and an increasing agricultural footprint on the one hand, while ensuring growth in agricultural production to feed an estimated 9 billion people in 2050, are among the most defining challenges of the 21st century.