Corporate giants set sustainable agriculture goals

Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture has announced that its member companies - including Unilever, General Mills, Kellogg's, Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble - have committed to drive sustainable agriculture in the US with six new environmental pledges.

Sixty-six grower organisations, agribusinesses, food, beverage and retail firms will pursue an agenda to achieve specific sustainability outcomes for corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, rice, potatoes and other crops.

Field to Market and its members pledge to deliver:

– Sustained reduction in soil erosion to tolerable levels or below on all U.S. cropland.
– Sustained improvement of land use efficiency by increasing productivity on U.S. cropland, conserving native habitat, and enhancing landscape quality.
– Sustained contribution to solving regional water quality problems as evidenced by reductions in sediment, phosphorus, nitrogen, and pesticide loads from U.S. cropland.
– Sustained reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. cropland per unit of output.
– Sustained contribution to solving regional water scarcity problems through continual improvement in irrigation water use efficiency and conservation.
– Sustained improvement in energy use efficiency from U.S. crop production.

To achieve these goals, Field to Market will seek to engage 20% of productive acres of US commodity crop production, which is equivalent to 50 million acres, in its supply chain sustainability program by 2020. The program is built on the philosophy of ‘driving continuous improvement’ against each of the sustainability indicators that are measured thrrough the organisation’s own ‘fieldprint calculator‘. 

“With these goals, Field to Market signals a new level of commitment to engage the entire agricultural supply chain to address the collective environmental challenges we face and responsibly manage our planet’s natural resources,” said Field to Market president Rod Snyder.

“In a resource-constrained world with growing global demands on food and water, we must work together to pursue solutions that deliver environmental, social and economic benefits. These goals represent a shared commitment to deliver sustainable outcomes through continuous improvement.”

Growing membership

The Field to Market program promotes a voluntary, collaborative approach to sustainability that is expressly science-based, technology-neutral and focused on outcomes that are within a grower’s control. This approach, the organisation says, continues to gain support from stakeholders across the agricultural supply chain. New members in 2014 include PepsiCo, Tate & Lyle and Procter & Gamble. 

“By creating shared value from farm to fork, Field to Market’s membership continues to grow at a significant pace, increasing by more than 30 percent in 2014,” added Snyder. “From farmers and agribusinesses to food and beverage companies and conservation groups, we are seeing increasing convergence around a common framework to measure sustainability in US agriculture.”

In June 2016, Field to Market will launch the next phase of its Continuous Improvement Program focused on scaling up data collection and enabling supply chain sustainability claims. The membership has agreed that, over the next 18 months, Field to Market will pursue a research agenda that will help inform questions about the ability of U.S. agriculture to achieve:

– Overall reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. crop production, including a consideration of incorporating carbon sequestration;
– Conservation of native habitat, enhancement of landscape quality, and improvement of conservation outcomes; and
– Overall maintenance and improvements to soil health.

Luke Nicholls

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