A group of the world’s largest and most influential agribusiness companies and organisations has recently launched an action plan to scale regenerative farming globally to tackle the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss.
The Agribusiness Task Force, part of the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI), have released its action plan focused on how to scale regenerative farming – an approach which aims to cut carbon emissions whilst seeking to promote and improve soil health and biodiversity.
The report — produced by the 12-strong cross-industry Task Force – highlights an urgent need for consistent metrics, better government policy incentives and a transformation of sourcing to spread the cost of transition to more sustainable practices.
It comes after new analysis by sustainability analysts Systemiq revealed regenerative farming is growing but the rate must triple to deliver against the planet’s need to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees.
Task Force Chair Grant Reid, outgoing Mars CEO, said the rate of progress was ‘far too slow’ and he hoped the report would inspire the sector to help make the economics of regenerative farming work for farmers.
The SMI Agribusiness Task Force’s report “Scaling Regenerative Farming: an action plan” warns that adoption rates are currently lagging far behind the rate needed to effectively tackle climate change. Fresh analysis by Systemiq has revealed that regenerative farming – whilst expanding its footprint over recent years – must triple its rate of growth to deliver against the world’s need to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees. It needs to make up at least 40% of global cropland by 2030, up from around 15% today.
The Task Force calls for common metrics and market-based financial incentives for environmental outcomes, targeted government policy and an overhaul of food sourcing – all to make regenerative agriculture a ‘no brainer’ business decision for farmers.
The Task Force is comprised of executives from many of the world’s largest and most influential agribusiness companies and organisations, united by a common ambition to enable regenerative farming to become mainstream: Bayer, HowGood, Indigo Agriculture, Mars, McCain Foods, McDonald’s, Mondelez, Olam, PepsiCo, Sustainable Food Trust, Waitrose & Partners and Yara International.
Task Force Chair & outgoing Mars CEO, Grant Reid said: “These are unprecedented times with supply chains under enormous pressure and the impacts of climate change all too real. Regenerative farming is a critical part of the solution, and our report shows all too clearly that – despite pockets of great work – adoption rates are far too slow as the short-term economic case for change is not compelling enough for farmers.
“As an industry, we need to address these areas with urgency if we are to hit our net zero commitments and protect against future supply-chain disruption.”
Regenerative farming is an approach that aims to build soil health and fertility, sequester carbon and reduce emissions, enhance watershed quality and increase biodiversity while also improving farmer livelihoods and resilience.
The Task Force focused its work on three specific value chains (wheat in the US, basmati rice in India and potatoes in the UK) with a view to identifying learnings that could be scaled to other crops and geographies with similar characteristics.
It details five key areas which it believes require urgent action to make the economics of regenerative farming more appealing to farmers. These are:
Agree common metrics for environmental outcomes
Build farmers’ income from environmental outcomes such as carbon reduction and removal
Create mechanisms to share the cost of transition with farmers
Ensure government policy enables and rewards farmers for transition
Develop new sourcing models to spread the cost of transition
The Task Force is set to continue its work into 2023 to drive the implementation of the report’s Big 5 recommendations. Further discussions with key stakeholders will take place next week at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh.
Launched at The World Economic Forum 2020 Annual Meeting in Davos, and under the mandate of the Terra Carta, the Sustainable Markets Initiative’s mission is to build a coordinated global effort to enable the private sector to accelerate the transition to a sustainable future.
Andrew Morlet, CEO, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, commented: “It is very encouraging to see leading businesses coming together to agree on key actions they can take to support farmers in the transition to regenerative farming systems. Regenerating nature is a fundamental principle of the circular economy, and transforming the way in which we produce and consume food is one of the most powerful ways in which we can do this. Recognising the key role food design plays in creating the demand for regeneratively sourced ingredients is at the heart of our vision of circular design for food, and we are excited to see this included in the action plan. We look forward to working together on this agenda and seeing the insights in the Agribusiness Taskforce Action Plan come to fruition.”
Arne Cartridge, Interim Executive Director, The Food Collective, said, “Scaling regenerative farming is key as we need to shift to a nature positive food future. The work by the Sustainable Markets Initiative’s Agribusiness Taskforce in addressing the hurdles and moving us to action is therefore one that we all should rally behind. The report provides an excellent overview of the key barriers to transition to regenerative food production. Specifically, the ‘Big Five’ provides a clear direction of travel on where pre-competitive collaboration across the full food value chain is deeply needed. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with SMI Agribusiness Taskforce towards this shared mission of scaling regenerative food systems with farmers at the centre.”
Peter Bakker, President & CEO of WBCSD and Co-Chair of OP2B, commented, “The SMI Action Plan for scaling regenerative farming establishes the important roles that businesses and policy makers play by re-aligning incentives from status quo to regenerative agriculture. With OP2B, we will build from SMI’s report and dive deeper on how this transition can take place on a farm level and continue our efforts to align the industry around shared metrics to create a level-playing field for outcome-based payments.”
Ramon Laguarta, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, PepsiCo:
“Regenerative agriculture can be one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal for fighting climate change and biodiversity loss. Regenerative agriculture can also improve the livelihoods of farming communities around the world. We all need to adopt a farmer-first approach and take immediate action to scale our support for farmers to implement the practices that will benefit them and the planet.”
Werner Baumann, CEO, Bayer:
“As we speak, global food security is under threat and climate change is impacting an ever-growing number of communities around the world. To tackle these challenges at the same time, we need to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable and resilient global food system. As the report rightly points out, we can only achieve this if we as an industry collectively step up our efforts to adopt regenerative farming practices and drive sustainable innovation across the entire food value chain.”
Svein Tore Holsether, CEO, Yara International:
“Soil has two essential tasks: to produce enough nutritious food and to store enough carbon. Let’s work together to create system-wide adoption of regenerative farming that not only improves soil fertility and structure, but positively affects nature and climate as a whole.”
Paul Pomroy, Corporate Senior Vice President, International Operated Markets:
“The climate challenge affects us all no matter where we are located in the world, the job we do or the industry we work in. The SMI Agribusiness Task Force report is a significant step forward in defining ways in which we can work together to face joint challenges and encourage all elements of the food and farming industry to adopt ways to promote regenerative agriculture.”
James Bailey, Executive Director of Waitrose:
“Regenerative agriculture will be critical in tackling the impacts of climate change but only if it is practiced at scale. This is why we’ve signed up to the Agribusiness Taskforce – to pool insights and try to help influence other food businesses to take the urgent and immediate action that’s required, and before it’s too late.
We aren’t just putting our name on a page either, we’re doing a huge amount of work on our own farm on the Leckford Estate. From using biomethane captured on farm as a fuel alternative, to ensuring 40% of our land is given to nature, we are actively reducing our reliance on artificial inputs and farming with nature to enhance biodiversity. In time, we will share practical guidance with our farmers based on our own pursuits and industry best practice, with the goal of benefitting both their own businesses as well as the environment – helping us reach our 2035 net zero target for UK farms in the process.”
Ron Hovsepian, CEO, Indigo Agriculture:
“Farmers are at the center of our food and agriculture system. Without them, we cannot scale regenerative farming and realize the transformative economic and environmental benefits of these sustainability practices. But we must work together to incentivize adoption. Our first sustainability experience with Indigo’s carbon credit program — which is helping farmers adopt, measure, and gain a new durable income stream from adopting these types of carbon farming practices on over 5.5 million acres of U.S. cropland and counting — shows that with meaningful incentives in place, farmers will enthusiastically deliver.”
Alexander Gillett, CEO, HowGood:
“The most critical first step to improving our impact is developing a shared understanding and commitment to what we are measuring. Developing this common framework for measuring the effects of regenerative agriculture on a global scale will be revolutionary in how we as an industry are tackling climate change. It has never been done before and is urgently needed.”
“Echoing SMI Agri-Business Task Force Chair Grant Reid’s call for urgency, we need to act now. Recognizing that acting as a diversified global industry is both difficult and necessary, HowGood will commit our unrivaled sustainability intelligence platform to the critical first step: developing a globally-recognized framework for measuring regenerative agriculture.”
Patrick Holden, Chief Executive, Sustainable Food Trust:
“From having been part of the problem, we now have the opportunity to turn our food and farming systems into a solution for nature, climate and health. The recommendations set out in this report provide a clear pathway for this transition. In particular, the need to measure progress using a holistic set of common metrics will be key in allowing us to better understand the impact of different farming systems and incentivise regenerative practices”
Max Koeune, President & CEO of McCain Foods:
“This is a critical moment: if we don’t evolve the way we grow food, the whole system could collapse. Therefore, we must transform supply chains and the way we farm. Here at McCain we have made a global commitment to implement regenerative agriculture across 100 per cent of our potato acreage by 2030.
We recognise that we can only make meaningful progress by thinking differently and partnering with actors from across the value chain. The Agribusiness Task Force’s Action Plan is an important step in uncovering why regenerative agriculture isn’t scaling at the pace required, and setting out the actions we need to take collectively to make it the most compelling approach for farmers.”