Unilever-owned Knorr outlines plans to start 50 regenerative agriculture projects within five years

Regenerative agriculture improves soil quality and biodiversity

Knorr said in a statement that “simply sourcing and growing in a way that minimises impact is not enough” to tackle the twin climate and nature crises, meaning that it will now strive to deliver regenerative growing and sourcing as much as possible. At present, 95% of its global vegetable herb and vegetable sourcing is certified as sustainable, with Knorr aiming for 100% by 2025.

Three of the 50 regenerative agriculture projects have already begun this year, enabling the business to gather learnings for the expansion of its project portfolio. Projects already underway are supporting tomato farmers in Spain and rice farmers in the US, who have already reported improvements in crop yield and soil quality, while reducing water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Knorr is suited to use its position in the supply chain and in the market to test and learn and scale implementation, all while sharing learnings and knowledge with a coalition of partners and academics to transform the way food is grown– for good,” the company’s statement reads.

The funding for the scaling up of the regenerative agriculture portfolio is being provided under Unilever’s €1bn Climate and Nature fund, which was launched last year as the firm updated its long-term environmental commitments. Updated targets include reaching net-zero emissions for all products by 2039; halving the total environmental impacts of all products by 2030 and protecting and restoring 1.5 million hectares of terrestrial and marine habitats this decade.

The funding was officially approved by Unilever’s shareholders at its annual general meeting in May, with 99.6% of voters backing its full Climate Transition Action Plan.

Since that meeting took place, Unilever has defined its Regenerative Agriculture Principles, in a bid to ensure that projects meet strict criteria on environmental improvements and farmer and community wellbeing. All projects must regenerate soil; reduce water use; promote water stewardship; boost biodiversity; improve farmer livelihoods and contribute to climate crisis mitigation and/or adaptation.

Unilever’s global president of food and refreshment Hanneke Faber said Knorr is the first brand within the business to “put the principles into practice”, adding that “learnings will be shared along the way so that others can do the same”.

Growing discussion

Once the domain of small farmer collectives, charities and Indigenous Peoples’ groups, regenerative agriculture is rising up the corporate agenda. Other large food and beverage firms to have updated their regenerative agriculture approaches in recent times include Nestle, Danone, McCain and Starbucks.

Regenerative agriculture is also fast gaining traction in the field of large fashion brands. Support has been voiced by the likes of Burberry, VF Corporation, Patagonia and Kering.

Even more focus will be needed in the coming years, given that the UN has named agri-food systems as the driver of 75% of deforestation to date and the top threat for 86% of species at risk of extinction.

Sarah George

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