The European Dimension: Attempts at dialogue

On 5 and 6 November a Forum on Innovation called  “Sustainable Landscapes” took place in London.

We did not take part in the event, and indeed have become rather “choosy” about which meetings, conferences, simposia etc. we take an interest in; but this one is worth a look because both “goodies” and “baddies” attended the Forum.

At the SIP Forum  and the Suolo Europa Group we support dialogue with our  “opponents”, those who consume the soil without showing any concern about what they are doing. Indeed we believe that concrete, sustainable solutions can be created through meetings and dialogue, because these will emerge as a result of the commitment of both sides.

We are interested, then, not so much in the outcome of the meeting as in the presence at the same event of multinational food businesses (Unilever, Nestlé, Coca Cola, BNP Paribas, Philip Morris, H&M, Cargill, Ikea, etc.) and of NGOs/representatives of civil society (Oxfam, Greenpeace, World Research Institute, Rainforest Alliance, Soil Association, Ecosphere, WWF etc.) Can these opposing sides come to an understanding? They can, if there is a common will to protect landscapes for future generations.

The Sustainable Landscapes Conference tackled “the biggest issues faced by business in managing risk, improving relationships and driving resilience in agricultural supply chains”. As well as obtaining information about practices that safeguard sustainable landscapes through an open and honest discussion between the representatives of the private sector and of civil society.

Plus points

An attempt at dialogue through a direct encounter between parties with differing  priorities and perspectives.

Evidence of sustainable practices in forestry, agriculture (in particular the resilience of small farmers), and land management systems (based on communities).

Weak points

The main focus was on the private sector and the businesses that work in it, with the aim of finding sustainable practices that are acceptable to them, especially if these consist of technological solutions that can be exploited strategically.

Failure to appreciate the existing knowledge and data on soil, land and landscape.

Virtual absence of “Cassandras”, i.e. researchers and representative of academia.