30 March 2022

World Economic Forum sets out three soil strategies


We must treat soil as an asset class to mitigate climate change, says the Swiss organization. In addition, we need fair remuneration for farmers and transparency on the impact of products to encourage consumer choice

by Matteo Cavallito


The solution to the climate crisis depends on a different management of agriculture that respects operators, soil and consumers the World Economic Forum said. “Our planet and humanity are basically supported by a 10-30 centimeters layer of soil, and it is our most precious resource,” the organization wrote in a statement.

Agriculture, after all, has always been the core of human development. It has been so since ancient times, when the farming revolution was the starting point of civilization. And it’s been the same since the 1960s, with food security becoming the fundamental condition for any economic boom, as shown by Asia. Today, with the climate emergency, “We must look to nature itself for the solution. And we find it in the soil. Here are three ways of getting it right.”

Fair compensation for farmers

First, WEF says, action must be taken to restore some fairness to the food supply chain. The production system, in fact, is characterized by a permanent imbalance, as a result of the burden of negative externalities. That is, loss of biodiversity, deforestation and, finally, its contribution to climate change that has been underestimated for too long, as more recent studies have shown.

“According to the Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU) report, the global value of the food system is $10 trillion, the cost is $12 trillion”, writes WEF. “In other words, the food system is destroying value. The reason is that we don’t factor in costs related to health and the environment.”

That’s why workers and businesses must be guaranteed access to a fair compensation. Which means pay them not just for the market value of the volumes they produce but also for implementing good agricultural practices that respect the environment.

Transparency for consumers

The second strategy to pursue, the WEF argues, is to promote transparency for consumers. Over the years, every buyer has been able to access more information about the products on sale, from nutritional value to details about ingredients and origin. But even today, it’s almost impossible to know what the climate footprint of production is. And so consumers have no way of knowing whether the food in supermarkets has been produced in an environmentally friendly way.

In addition to counting calories, it is therefore necessary to make the emission calculation available. Technological solutions are in place, but global standards, i.e. common rules, are needed to facilitate the dissemination of information. In this way, it is possible to empower consumers by allowing them to reward the most sustainable products through their choices.

Soil as an asset class

Finally, the WEF continues, it is necessary to recognize the value of soil as a resource. In fact, about 80% of the earth’s carbon is stored in the soil. But degradation – which affects “52% of all farmland” – it is essential to promote a new strategy. How? Through regenerative agriculture, of course, thus promoting carbon sequestration and the protection of biodiversity.

To achieve this goal, the document says, we need to develop carbon farming, i.e. those agricultural management practices that facilitate the sequestration of the element in the soil. In order to encourage research into these solutions, it is therefore necessary to expand the carbon market through the trading of emission allowances. This strategy can also help farmers to valorise the soil “as an asset class” and getting a remuneration for the efforts they made in the fight against climate change.