There are arguably five things that a human needs to survive; air, water, shelter, touch, and food. In today’s world of constant chatter on global warming and climate change, it can be difficult to know the events happening past the bubble of verbal communication and the occasional news article that pops in your inbox. One of our five basic needs is being threatened by problems we as a human race have caused: food. The avocados you eat on your toast every morning, the chocolate you sneak bites of from the pantry, the coffee you drink daily for that much-needed caffeine kick and many more are all on the verge of crossing over to the endangered list; a list that continues to grow daily.
Brands aren’t legally committed to take action in the face of this drastic change. However, there is an ethical dilemma we all should have in our minds asking, “what kind of brand do you want to be?” Instead of occasionally reading those “Climate Change Is Happening” emails and participating in the water cooler talk, there are steps we can take to help spread messages to the public. That starts with understanding the extent of the problem within your given industry. Positioning your brand to stand for something that is more than just a product and following through with those claims through marketing strategies.
The food industry is one of the many markets that should take action. It is one of the largest industries contributing to the problem and being directly affected by it. So in order to understand the problem, here are just a few examples of popular foods at risk of going endangered:
“Avocados require nine gallons of water per ounce to grow. That’s 72 gallons of water per fruit.” The avocados that you can find at the grocery store are either coming from California or Mexico. However, our increasing demand for all things avocado far outweighs the ability to supply it. California’s water supply, or the lack thereof, can not sustain this demand. The concern for water supply is only part of the puzzle, because what California cannot supply, we get from Mexico. Yet, avocados from Mexico, come at the cost of rising prices for exportation and “fueling the deforestation of central Mexico’s pine forest.”
Two countries, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire supply over half of the world’s cocoa supply. According to the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, those two places are projected to become too hot for the cocoa bean by 2030. Cocoa is extremely sensitive to heat and environment so there are limited places that can be used to grow the cocoa bean. If this struggle continues, farmers may be forced to high grounds to plant the beans, which could result in the clearing of forests; thus perpetuating the problem.
The importance of bees isn’t just to keep the flowers blooming, they are also responsible for your ability to fill your cup with coffee every morning. Climate change can affect the geographic distribution of pollinators, and thus the effectiveness of pollination. As a result, coffee production will likely be affected by climate change in two ways: directly, through the effects of changes in temperature, rainfall, or extreme events on coffee production, and indirectly, through changes in pollination services. “In fact, bees are responsible for about 20 to 25 percent of coffee production by increasing the plants’ yield.” There are results that suggest areas suitable for growing coffee beans will decrease by about 88% by 2050. So we should save the bees to save our coffee.
The importance of wheat worldwide is immense. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, “wheat, maize, and rice crops account for 51% of the world’s calorie intake, and world demand for the crops is projected to increase 33% by 2050.” However, due to the changing climate in Asia and lack of rainfall, wheat production will continue to decrease. Those in low-income countries will be the first to feel this effect. This in turn will create an increase in demand for rice, which has also been affected by warming temperatures and shortened growing seasons.
Humankind is coming head-to-head with a disturbing reality. We need to stop beating around the bush and realize that there are things we as brands can do to help. This global problem can no longer be fixed by just bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, it must be taken on by larger entities. So let us all take that next step towards sustainability, so we can continue to sneak the chocolate and drink that fourth cup of coffee.
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