On December 8, 2015, the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF) hosted a briefing on work being done by U.S. corporations to promote sustainable agricultural practices throughout the global farming community. Among others, the Rainforest Alliance and
Following is an excerpt of the conversation that took place between
What are your respective goals in the area of sustainable agriculture?
We aim to do so while simultaneously promoting women’s entrepreneurship, water stewardship and the minimization of our total carbon footprint. Partnerships with our suppliers, customers and NGO leaders like the Rainforest Alliance are important to the success of this work.
Rainforest Alliance (JT): Our priorities are pretty similar. First and foremost, we aim to conserve landscapes and get out ahead of ecosystem destruction. In parallel, we are focusing on enhancing the livelihoods and resilience of farming communities, as the only way to ensure real sustainability on the ground is to deliver a compelling value proposition to farmers. Finally, we work with companies like
What target crops or commodities are most important to your agricultural sustainability work?
Coca-Cola (BJ): For
Rainforest Alliance (JT): At the Rainforest Alliance, we have to date focused on cocoa, bananas and other fruit, coffee, tea, and forest products, with our certification and training programs achieving meaningful global shares of total production in these areas. In addition to these commodities, we are taking aim at palm oil, cattle and other major deforestation drivers and livelihood crops as part of our new strategic plan.
Specifically, what are
Coca-Cola’s guiding principles around sustainable agriculture?
Coca-Cola (BJ): At
What does the Rainforest Alliance see as the key benefits for farmers of adopting sustainable agricultural practices?
Rainforest Alliance (JT): Our comprehensive standards provide a framework for farmers to manage their farms in an organized, professional way. We find that the most important, immediate direct result is greater productivity as resources are utilized more efficiently with inputs and outputs more visible for them. Over time, the more long term benefits of sustainable farming, including well-managed natural resources, biodiversity and water conservation, and climate resilience become apparent. Farmers also often cite the importance of a cleaner environment for themselves, their children and their communities, as well as the stronger connectivity to markets and supply chains.
More and more global brands, like
Coca-Cola, are setting targets on more sustainable sourcing. What are the positive impacts?
Rainforest Alliance (JT): Companies like
Coca-Cola (BJ): We know there are benefits to farmers in doing things the “right” way. This means productivity and yield improvements, as we see with the China program we are doing with WWF and Cargill in corn supply. It might mean less inputs, like fertilizer, which programs like Field to Market in the U.S. are proving out. Sustainability gives a new quality to our strategic supplier relationships and precompetitive collaboration, as we have experienced with the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) platform for sweeteners in Europe. It could mean a more productive piece of land in general, and a better environment and community. Or, it might mean better connections with customers and the “demand” part of the equation.
What do you see as priorities for sustainable agriculture moving forward?
Coca-Cola (BJ): Smallholder agriculture is a major priority as we move beyond initial work with large, leading suppliers in priority sourcing regions. In smallholder agriculture, often the issues are bigger than we, a supplier or a farmer can tackle individually. This is where multi-stakeholder collaborations will be even more critical.
Rainforest Alliance (JT): I agree with Ben. The challenges facing small farmers transcend what any one company or organization can do alone, and demand broad coalitions to scale up solutions. In order to achieve a deforestation-free, climate resilient agriculture system, we need to bring significant, long term investments to small farmers on the ground. To catalyze these investments, industry must continue to commit to rigorous sustainable agriculture standards and practices, tailored to the needs of specific supply chains, geographies and crops. There needs to be a continued focus on sustainable intensification, as well as the broader environmental, economic, and social outcomes - associated with strong, independent, third party programs that are needed in order to ensure true, verifiable sustainability on the ground.
Industry and companies like