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Navigation: Minimum Sustainable Recommendations | What are the Issues? | What are the Options?  

Did you know...In October 2014, Waterhen Lake fishery located in Manitoba received Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. This fishery, known for its Walleye and Northern Pike is the first North American fishery to receive MSC eco-certification.

Minimum Sustainable Recommendations

In support of building operational efficiencies as well as best practices, at least 25% (by cost) of the total combined food and beverages (including catering for meetings and food service providers to operate cafeterias) must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Canada Organic, US Certified Organic
  • Fair Trade Certified by Fairtrade International (FLO)
  • Marine Stewardship Council Blue Eco-Label
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified
  • Purchases are produced within 160 km of radius of site.

Other things to consider

Procurement of sustainable food contributes to achievement of existing building certifications such as BOMA building environmental standards (BOMA BESt) and LEED Canada for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (EBOM). The following statement should be included in specifications for purchases that are produced within 160km of radius from the site: “written evidence must be provided to verify the environmental claim.”

The Manitoba Climate and Green Plan Act supports reducing environmental and social impacts, as well as enhancing operations through sustainable procurement of goods and services.

Manitoba Agriculture Food and Rural Initiatives provide guidance for the selection of local and/or organic foods on their Buy Manitoba website

Guidance for the selection of Fair Trade items can be found on Fairtrade Canada's Canadian Fairtrade Purchasing Guide.


What are the issues?

Roughly 10,000 years ago, humans began to transition from hunting and gathering communities to agricultural settlements. The hunting and gathering communities exploited many of the earth’s resources, but did so “lightly”. The transition into agricultural settlements came about when people first discovered how to cultivate crops and to domesticate animals and radically changed the natural environment.  In order to grow crops, forested land was cleared, water needed for irrigation was taken from streams and rivers and domesticated animals grazed on native grasses.  When the streams dried up and/or the soil could no longer produce crops or sustain herds, the land was abandoned and farmers re-settled on more fertile soils.  

Throughout history many agricultural practices have been implemented to enhance crop yields and meat production and help feed the world’s ever growing population.  Today’s agronomic practices routinely include plant breeding, irrigation, application of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides and the use of antibiotics and hormones in animal husbandry practices.  While these practices have significantly increased food production, there have been a number of “unintended consequences”.  For instance, excessive uses of agronomic chemicals have polluted waterways and affected wildlife and have resulted in many negative human health effects.  The application of chemicals and misuse of irrigation water has also rendered many agricultural areas infertile and water sources non-potable. 

Today’s modern farming is often considered industrial farming where one crop (monoculture) or livestock is mass produced. This method has significant environmental consequences and limits the opportunity for consumers to purchase a wide variety of locally grown and raised products. In addition, large industrial farming practices have reduced the opportunity for smaller scale farmers to sell their commodities on the global market for a fair price.

In addition to human reliance on domesticated crops and animals we are also reliant on the harvesting of wild fish from our lakes and oceans as a vital source of protein as well as livelihoods for many families. The UN estimated that the total catch of ocean fish increased from 18.5 million metric tonnes in 1950 to 73.5 million metric tonnes in 1996, an increase of close to 400%. According to Sea Choice (, on a global level, most fisheries are poorly managed and fish stocks have been fully exploited (52%), over-exploited (16%), or depleted (7%). Currently what we take out of the ocean as seafood or by catch is greater than what the ocean can sustainably provide. We are facing both a decline in the capacity of our oceans to provide a sustainable food source and we are destroying the basic ecological processes and food chains that we and marine life depend on.


What are the options?

Today, the UN estimates the world population will grow to approximately 9.0 billion by 2050.  Many agricultural specialists and world leaders are trying to figure out how to feed that many people, recognizing that our current methods of food production are not sustainable.  Agronomy specialists are focusing on methods that will protect the soil and keep the land fertile for an extended period of time.  These methods include integrated soil-fertility management with blended organic and inorganic nutrient supplements; rainwater capture and conservation; mixed cropping to ensure adequate diversity and resistance to pests and diseases; and non crop varieties and animal breeds adapted to varied agro-ecosystems. 

A variety of social groups have been advocating to ensure a fair market value is provided to subsistence farmers for the crops that they produce and are sold on the global market.

Fisheries Scientists are also making significant strides understanding the oceans, fish stocks and fish habitat, and developing fishing quotas to support sustainable fishing practices.

From a purchasing perspective there are a number of third party certification logos that support the current focus on sustainable food production. These logos include Canada Certified Organic, USDA Certified Organic, Rainforest Alliance Certified, Fair Trade certified by Fairtrade International (FLO) and Marine Stewardship Council Blue Eco-Label. Purchasing can also support mixed farming practices and enhance the local economy by buying from distributors that carry local product.

Certifications for existing buildings often provide a framework for property owners and building managers to maximize the operational efficiency while minimizing environmental impacts of existing buildings. For example, LEED EBOM includes requirements for the sustainable purchase of food and beverage by food services hired or controlled by building management.  


Last updated: February 2019


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