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Former tech entrepreneur, Eric Archambeau has recently released Costing the Earth: How to Fix Finance to Save the Planet. Archambeau’s book calls upon the corporate sector to advance social and environmental sustainability goals on the same footing as profitability objectives.
“This book is really for people who are interested in doing something good for the planet,” Archambeau tells Food Tank.
In Costing the Earth, Archambeau tells the story of his career journey, including tech entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley and venture capitalism in the agrifood sector. He highlights how individuals can simultaneously channel nonprofit and corporate interests as they build a career that is both impactful and effective. The book emphasizes the importance of sustainable business models, outlines a new framework for financial accounting systems, and foregrounds hope for the reconciliation of capitalism and ecology.
While Archambeau believes that companies and organizations often value social and environmental sustainability in their structure, their financial motivations take precedent.
“At the end of a day, a business is driven by monetary considerations,” Archambeau says, “so the only way you can keep people focused on impactful decisions that are good for the planet and good for society, is to reintegrate the external costs that you are not accounting for today in the accounting system.”
Accounting for externalities is a key theme throughout Costing the Earth. In order to move away from greenwashing, Archambeau calls for corporations to become more transparent in their impact pathways. He believes companies need to go beyond climate friendly pledges to account for the entirety of the supply chain and its impact upon earth systems.
To help readers understand how they can apply an impact investing framework directly within the agrifood sector, Archambeau walks them through the history of the commodification of food.
“We have been ignoring the cost of quality which is really one of the externalities. The impact investing framework will help look at the agrifood system in a different way and push people to value quality – nutritional quality, soil quality, air quality, water quality, biodiversity – and all of that has a price that we have not taken into account,” Archambeau tells Food Tank.
The Rockefeller Foundation estimates that American consumers spend US$1.1 trillion on food annually. But the true cost of that food, accounting for healthcare and environmental degradation, comes to nearly US$3.2 trillion.
Instead of outsourcing these externalities to NGO’s, Archambeau believes that further accountability and transparency within the agrifood sector could proactively reduce these costs from the start.
Archambeau hopes Costing the Earth will guide the next generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs who are determined to drive a purposeful and profitable career.
“This is a message of cautious optimism for the future,” Archambeau tells Food Tank, “if we get a number of entrepreneurs of the young generation entering the field with the vision that something can be done, then I think we’ll be able to do it.”
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Photo courtesy of Dan Meyers, Unsplash
Liza Greene is a Research and Writing Intern at Food Tank. She graduated from Hamilton College with a BA in Sociology and Environmental Studies and is currently living in Utah. Her experiences working as a food access/garden education intern, participating in an agricultural research fellowship, and writing her community garden focused senior thesis have grounded her interests in food justice, agricultural sustainability, and community development.
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