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UNEA4, A Call for Innovative Solutions and the One Planet Network’s Response

A screenshot of a cell phone screen with textDescription automatically generatedDuring the Fourth UN Environment Assembly held in Nairobi, the Consumer Information and Sustainable Food Systems programmes jointly hosted a formal side event during the evening of the 11th March. Addressing the theme of UNEA, “Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production,” the event showcased several initiatives from partners of the two programmes that are working to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.

The event kicked off with a speech from H.E. Mr. Soehardjono Sastromihardjo, Ambassador of Indonesia to UN Environment, who called for urgent and desperate solutions for sustainable consumption and production. Highlighting the leading role the Indonesia Government plays within the Consumer Information programme, the Ambassador urged governments to take a cross-societal approach when it came to achieving SDG 12, “we have to change our society, which means changing our lifestyle.”

The event also saw the official launch of the report “Ready to Drive the Market: Experiences from Road Testing the Guidelines for Providing Product Sustainability Information", produced by UN Environment as an output of the One Planet Network Consumer Information programme. Ligia Noronha, Director of UN Environment’s Economy Division, highlighted the key role product information has in changing consumer behaviour, showcasing the experiences from leading businesses and standard-setters across the globe who partook in the roadtesting of the Guidelines.Ligia Noronha, Director of UN Environment’s Economy Division, highlighted the key role product information has in changing consumer behaviour, showcasing the experiences from leading businesses and standard-setters across the globe who partook in the roadtesting of the Guidelines.

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One of the roadtesting organisations, Cruelty Free International, who recently joined the Consumer Information programme’s Multi-Advisory Committee, then shared their direct experiences of applying these guidelines to their Leaping Bunny certification. Kerry Postlewhite, Director of Public Affairs, highlighted how their certification for cruelty-free products is being used to mobilise businesses and consumers to act more responsibly. In 2018, Cruelty Free International partnered with The Body Shop to create a petition calling for the UN to end cosmetics animal testing worldwide, which received 8.3 million signatures in just over a year, showcasing the demand from consumers for businesses and lawmakers to ensure more responsible production and consumption patterns.

Hugh Weldon, one of the UN’s Young Champions of the Earth 2018, told a captive audience the story behind the creation of his app, Evocco, where customers can scan their food shopping receipt and gain immediate access to sustainability information regarding the products they’ve purchased. The app, a new partner of the Consumer Information programme, helps upsell more sustainable brands through vouchers and recommendations, providing numerous opportunities for businesses through sponsored content and access to data on consumer behaviour.

One of the main focus and discussion areas for delegates throughout the UN Environment Assembly was the topic of sustainable food systems. Specifically examining how to ensure food systems from the local to the global level were managed in a way that ensured fair access to all whilst also reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, food waste and preventing further biodiversity loss. During the second half of the event, three of the co-leads for the One Planet Network’s Sustainable Food Systems programme shared their own examples of innovative solutions that are making food systems more sustainable and efficient worldwide.

A screenshot of a cell phoneDescription automatically generatedPatrick Mink of the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture fed back on the successes and outcomes from the recent Sustainable Food Systems conference in Costa Rica, which included the launch of a joint initiative to promote a sustainable, healthy and inclusive food environment, as well as high-level commitments to action by the governments of Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico and Switzerland. The Swiss government has introduced a ‘food systems dialogue’ to engage stakeholders across the country to find solutions to ensure more sustainable food systems and consumption by its citizens.

Immaculate Daisy Yossa, Regional Advocacy Manager at Hivos, showcased their leading ‘Sustainable Diets for All’ programme. Spanning 4 regions globally, the programme builds the advocacy capacity of CSOs to challenge unsustainable practices and incentives in food production and consumption. Immaculate shared direct experiences from her work in Uganda, establishing a Food Change Lab that bought multiple stakeholders together to share knowledge, evidence and ideas, and to jointly develop local, national and international examples of how food systems can be transformed.

The need to educate and raise awareness about the importance of sustainable food systems was highlighted by Martina Fleckenstein of WWF who shared their latest global research. Surveying more than 11,000 people in 10 countries, 91% of respondents stated that they do not realize the extent of the threat of the food system for nature, whilst 39% considered it to be insignificant or not even exist. WWF are taking important steps to raise consumer awareness on food waste through their Save One Third campaign which provides innovative ideas on how to shop, cook and eat smarter.

The event played an important role in showcasing the strength of the One Planet Network, which was explicitly recognised throughout several key documents adopted at the Assembly. The Ministerial Declaration specifically recognises the One Planet Network as advancing SCP worldwide, whilst “the disclosure of appropriate product information to consumers” is recognised as important to encouraging sustainable consumption behaviour.

Within one of the resolutions that were adopted by member states at the Assembly, ‘Innovative pathways for sustainable consumption and production,’ the Guidelines for Providing Product Sustainability Information were directly mentioned, inviting “Member States to use, as appropriate, the guidelines for consumer information and other instruments developed by the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns for supporting sustainable and informed consumer choices” whilst providing information to consumers is explicitly recognised five times as a crucial tool for supporting SCP. The One Planet network and 10 Year Framework of Programmes are together mentioned 15 times throughout this important resolution, a true reflection of the value of collaborating in this network to achievement of SDG 12.