Volkert Engelsman, CEO of major organics marketer Eosta and one of the driving forces behind the True Cost Accounting movement, has made an appeal to banks and investors through HRH Queen Máxima calling on the sector to move up a gear with more “inclusive finance”. By including the environmental and societal damage caused by large scale conventional farming in profit and loss accounts, the financial sector can make a huge impact towards saving our planet, argued Engelsman.
Eosta’s CEO made the appeal during Dutch Organic Trade Fair Bio Beurs on 17 January, which Queen Máxima visited to learn more about the impact food and agriculture has on the climate. Eosta works with thousands of organic farmers all around the world and sells their products on the European market, and in the Queen, Engelsman not only found someone who was able to understand the challenges faced by the sector, but also an ally. In fact, with her background in finance and support of Microcredit, the Queen turned out to be a strong advocate of an honest, inclusive financial approach.
Engelsman explained that the food and agriculture sector are currently unnecessarily financially at risk as long as the cost of damage to the environment and human health are not included in the cost price. “With soil depletion, groundwater pollution, climate change and pesticide pressure on foodstuffs, we are literally sawing the chair legs out from our own existence,” he said. “It is now time to adjust our definition of profit because how can you expect farmers to go green if they are in the red? We are calling for a more equal playing field where the polluter pays and those who do not are rewarded and incentivised. The sustainability discussion has so far been driven by ethical arguments, now it is time to start calculating correctly,” he said.
True Cost Accounting
Leading by example, Eosta has been one of the first companies to take on the True Cost Accounting challenge. As part of a 2017 pilot project, Eosta applied and made visible social and environmental costs for the company’s organic fruits and vegetables. Subsequently Eosta - together with the other organisations that contributed to the project, including accountants EY, Triodos Bank, Soil & More Impacts, the UN’s FAO and WHO, as well as The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity initiative, organic federation IFOAM and the Natural & Social Capital Coalition - were able to develop a model and dashboard for calculating true costs. “With this calculation dashboard, the financial sector no longer has any excuse for omitting social and environmental costs from the balance sheet,” argued Engelsman. “To be able to look future generations in the eye, financiers need to invest in growers that are doing the right thing and not harming the planet.”
Engelsman added that the climate stress test recently carried out by the Netherlands’ central ‘De Nederlandsche Bank’ on the balance sheets of insurers and pension funds is a good example of such thinking. “When the financial sector starts working closely with NGO’s and the organic sector we will still be able to turn the tide,” he said. “Furthermore, a more realistic assessment of risk in food and agriculture is also purely in the self-interest of the financial sector. “If banks want to ensure a long-term profit, they can no longer ignore the fact that True Cost Accounting is in the best interests of the planet and its inhabitants.”