The Committee on World Food Safety (CFS) under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) has published, following consultation, its Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems.

The objective of this document is to promote responsible investment in agriculture and food systems that contribute to increased food production, improved sustainability, both economic and environmental. The CFS aim is that these principles should progress the realisation of the global population’s right to adequate food. The final document also forms part of the FAO’s guidance documents.

Investment in agriculture and food systems supports not only this industry, but also extends the benefits of increased business to the service sector, manufacturers and processors. Responsible investment, as defined by the CFS Principles, goes further and sets out 10 Principles that, if implemented, will help to support initiatives that contribute to creating sustainable development. This includes, delivering sustainable livelihoods, creating good quality jobs for agricultural and food workers, eliminating child labour and promoting social wellbeing, thereby increasing economic growth.

10 Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems

  • Principle 1: Contribute to food security and nutrition
  • Principle 2: Contribute to sustainable and inclusive economic development and the eradication of poverty
  • Principle 3: Foster gender equality and women’s empowerment
  • Principle 4: Engage and empower youth
  • Principle 5: Respect tenure of land, fisheries, forests and access to water
  • Principle 6: Conserve and sustainably manage natural resources, increase resilience, and reduce disaster risks
  • Principle 7: Respect cultural heritage and traditional knowledge, and support diversity and innovation
  • Principle 8: Promote safe and healthy agriculture and food systems
  • Principle 9: Incorporate inclusive and transparent governance structures, processes, and grievance mechanisms
  • Principle 10: Assess and address impacts and promote accountability

Food producers, processors and manufacturers, have a vital role to play in the successful implementation of the CFS RAI Principles. At the entry point to the food supply chain, the scheme introduces protection for small holders and farmers, the backbone of food production in developing markets, and empowers them to become actors in their own development.

Further up the food supply chain, food businesses seeking to invest, or to attract external investment in their projects will need to be able to demonstrate adherence to the RAI Principles. Food businesses need to apply the Principles with a focus on mitigating and managing risks to maximise the positive effect on production, as well as sustainability.

Increased food production, funded by responsible investment, should be synonymous with a clear focus on empowerment and equality for workers, respect for land tenure, conservation, safety and governance, as well as improved accountability.

The CFS RAI Principles put the onus on the industry to attract investment, from within, as well as external sources, by casting off some of the worst aspects of its reputation. For example, low wages, poor terms and conditions, and in the worst cases land grabs.


These Principles were developed by a CFS Open Ended Working Group and are based on an inclusive process of consultations that took place from November 2013 to March 2014. The global scope of the project has been reflected in the regional consultations and workshops held in Africa, Europe and Central Asia, North America, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the Near East. In addition, the working group has also received feedback through an electronic consultation. Consultations included governments, UN agencies, civil society and nongovernmental organisations, international agricultural research institutions, private sector associations and private philanthropic foundations, as well as international and regional financial institutions.


Applicable to all sectors and all stages of agriculture and food systems the Principles are complementary but not every Principle may be relevant for every investment, the full details of which can be obtained by reading the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems in full.

Investors, shareholders and authorities will want to know whether the principles are respected, and effectively implemented. The food industry will need to prepare for final buyers not only insisting that production comes from investments that respect these Principles, but also that adherence can be proven.

SGS, with our global network of agriculture experts, is ready and qualified to conduct these assessments.

For further information, please contact:

Bruno Widmer
Agriculture Audit and Certification
1, Place des Alpes
Geneva 1211
t: +41 22 739 94 68