The rise of the food sustainability movement has a distinct correlation with the increased prevalence of internet connectivity. Beginning approximately 20 years ago consumers have continued to demand more transparency in the food supply chain as more and more people became active on the internet. Social media platforms now expedite the spread of information and ideas, which can both help and harm the image of the agricultural industry.
“I think the internet created sustainability, the whole corporate sustainability movement because without that transparency none of us knew what was going on,” said Editor at Large at GreenBiz Bob Langert, who spent nearly 30 years with McDonald’s as Chief Sustainability Leader. “I think this transparency has provided, in a positive way, the sustainability movement because people care about where their food comes from, what’s put in it, how it’s processed.”
While the food sustainability movement has been around to a smaller degree for decades, the internet has provided a stronger platform with significantly more reach. That amplified ability to influence observers has heightened the focus on the food industry and increased the appeals for more sustainable practices to be implemented in agriculture. Small, localized groups can now communicate their message to a global audience. “1995 was the year where you could come up with a campaign across the world to expose a company’s flaws,” said Langert. “Not all the issues are related to sustainability but many, many of them are.”
The agricultural industry has made significant strides in becoming more active online and engaging consumers, but there is more work to be done to ensure that factual information is resonating with the public. Langert acknowledges the challenge in combating misinformation but encourages farmers and ranchers to be open and upfront about their agricultural business instead of reacting to claims or accusations after the fact. “I tell you what, you’re not going to win anything playing defense,” Langert noted.
Listen to Langert’s interview below.