Heineken celebrates regenerative agriculture milestone

The brewing giant has worked with farming and food processing cooperative VIVESCIA, based in France, to support hundreds of farmers to adopt more sustainable farming practices.

Changes to processes were selected on a science-based basis to deliver co-benefits for soil health, biodiversity, water stewardship, climate impact and climate resilience.

By the time this year’s harvest was complete, some 200 farmers in the North-East of France were participating in the large-scale regenerative agriculture programme, representing around 25,000 hectares of land. Heineken and VIVESCIA are hoping to expand the scheme to 500 farmers by next year, then 1,000by 2026.

Heineken has described the programme as involving a “unique cooperation between the plant and grain sectors, upstream and downstream partners”.

Farmers participating in the programme are offered financial support upfront, plus a price premium for their crops. They are also enrolled in a multi-year training programme.

VIVESCIA Group’s president Christoph Buren said the programme is “destined to be replicated and adapted” across and beyond France, as farmers grapple with financial and environmental challenges.

Heineken’s senior director for global procurement, Herve le Faou, said: “Agriculture represents approximately 21% of our total carbon footprint. By investing in regenerative agriculture practices, we aim to not only reduce our environmental impact but also to strengthen the resilience of our supply chain for the future.”

Heineken has set a 2040 net-zero target covering its entire value chain. A key interim goal is to reduce Scope 3 (indirect) emissions related to forests, agriculture and land use (FLAG) by 30% this decade.

Financing the regenerative transition

The Sustainable Markets Initiative estimated in 2022 that just 15% of the world’s cropland is managed using regenerative practices. This proportion should increase to 40% by 2030, the Initiative is recommending.

One major challenge to scaling is finance. The transition should ultimately boost farmers’ yields and improve their long-term resilience, but it does bear an upfront cost, making this a challenge for smallholder farmers.

The Rainforest Alliance this week announced a strategic partnership with investor Mirova, with an ambition of raising €350m for regenerative agriculture and sustainable land management activities in the Global South.

The partnership’s first priority will be to identify investment opportunities for locally-led projects in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Mirova has already participated in the financing of more than 70 projects and companies in the field of nature restoration in low and middle-income countries and will leverage this expertise.

Mirova’s deputy chief executive and head of private equity and natural capital, Anne-Laurence Roucher, said: “Mirova and the Rainforest Alliance share a common vision: to accelerate the transition from nature-dependent economic value chains to a more sustainable model which improves the incomes and rights of local communities.

“It is essential to foster collective intelligence and collaboration among all stakeholders. This partnership will allow more developers of nature-positive projects to access high-quality certification and funding to grow their business”.

Related news: Chivas Brothers launches new sustainable agriculture programme for Scottish farmers

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