Eosta CEO: “Not profit at any price!”
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A recent pilot study on the true cost of food underlines that a conventional economic system does not pay in the long term, as it destroys the natural resources that we need to live. Volkert Engelsman, CEO of Eosta, has called upon the major food companies to question the economic system, with its pursuit of short-term profits, and finally adopt a sustainable approach.
Confirmed by the pilot project - organic food costs us less
Engelsman’s statements are underpinned by the results of the current pilot project “True Cost Accounting for Food, Farming and Finance”, which was implemented, among others, by Eosta, Triodos Bank and management consultants from Ernst & Young and presented at Biofach for the first time. The results clearly show that the agricultural costs of organic fruit and vegetables are lower than for their conventional counterparts. And this does not only include the environmental and social costs, but also the health of producers and consumers.
Above all, avoiding the use of harmful pesticides in organic farming is a way of taking responsibility. This is shown most clearly by the example of organic apples, as Engelsman explained at the Biofach conference: “Per kilo, they cost us 14 Euro cents less than apples from conventional farming! If you also factor in the results of previous total cost calculations concerning soil, climate and water, the economic advantage is actually about 20 Euro cents per kilo of organic apples!”
Event at Biofach
“No farmer or consumer gets up in the morning and thinks: ‘How can I exploit the earth a bit more today and continue to encourage global warming?’ And yet this is exactly what happens – every day,” said Volkert Engelsman to a large audience at the Biofach organic food fair in Nuremberg. “Not with any negative intentions, but because we have created an economic system that provides false incentives and looks only for financial gain.”
Organically produced food seems expensive within this system. But conventional foods are actually far too cheap, as Engelsman went on to say: “The damage caused by conventional agriculture to health and the natural environment, or the fact that people have to work under degrading conditions – none of this is reflected in the price.” At the same time, the effects of the perverted, profit-driven system can be seen all over the world – including in Germany: “There is almost nothing left of our shared natural capital. The groundwater is polluted with nitrate, the soils are depleted due to intensive farming and their organic substances have been exhausted.”
Profit at the expense of our planet
In a passionate plea, Engelsman appealed to companies to question and change the conventional food production system – after all, an entire planet – our planet – is at stake! “The time of fruitless conferences has passed us by. Strictly speaking, our economic system – if you consider its consequences for people and the environment – is a criminal system, except that we currently have no legal means of fighting it.” In order to achieve sustainable, economic change, says Engelsman, we cannot rely on politics: “The change has to come from the private sector. Major companies have to flick the switch. Bayer, Coca Cola, Cargill and other companies have far more power and influence than politics – the state only needs to support and, where necessary, facilitate the change.”
Calling for a new definition of profit
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that the negative impacts of food production on social capital amount to 5,000 billion Euros per year – but this figure is not reflected in product prices, company balance sheets or the gross national product of a country. Those contributing to the pilot project “True Cost Accounting for Food, Farming and Finance” are therefore pushing for the true costs to be included in the profit and loss account, as well as the balance sheet total. This would enable companies in the food sector to measure and calculate their impacts on the world – so that they can be accountable to the general public. “We have no alternative, if we want to live on our planet in the future,” says Engelsman.
Volkert Engelsman, Eosta:
In 1990, Volkert Engelsman founded Eosta with the aim of creating an organisation that could harmoniously combine economy and ecology. Eosta is now one of the world’s biggest organic fruit and vegetable companies. It has developed its own Trace & Tell system for its Nature & More own brand, which makes it possible to trace the origin of products back to the grower. As a result, Eosta has already been presented with a wide range of sustainability awards. In addition, the company is involved in a variety of campaigns. As part of the international “Save Our Soils” campaign, Eosta is working to promote soil-friendly organic cultivation practices. In 2016, the company launched its international “The True Cost of Food” price transparency campaign in partnership with IFOAM – Organics International.
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