Powerful Business: The Lever for Change Across the Supply Chain

Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.
-Archimedes

Sometimes when a problem seems too big, too ugly and too complex to handle, you need a lever to help move things along.  All of the big environmental problems we currently face fall into this category.

When it comes to tackling our planet’s biggest problems, there is a full spectrum of approaches and many different leverage points. For me, the most important lever is business. A thriving planet and a thriving economy don’t have to be at odds. EDF is focusing on helping businesses make their supply chains cleaner, more efficient and more profitable.

Working with powerful business has been a cornerstone of EDF’s approach ever since we launched our 1st partnership with McDonald’s 25 years ago. Since then, we have kick-started market transformations in fast food with McDonalds and Starbucks, shipping with FedEx, retail with Walmart, and private equity with KKR. With each partnership, we’ve worked to create new, sustainable demand signals that extend across the supply chain. When powerful business speaks, suppliers listen. EDF is helping the most impactful companies commit to selling sustainably-produced products, encouraging every supplier and producer contributing to those products to also adopt more sustainable practices.

supplychainmapEDF is currently focused on cleaning up consumer product supply chains in three key areas: deforestation, fertilizer pollution and hazardous chemicals. By working with retailers and consumer products suppliers, EDF has the potential to effect real environmental gains. On farms across the United States. In forests in Brazil. In food and beauty products on store shelves. In the air we breathe.

Through our work with Walmart and The Sustainability Consortium, EDF has had the opportunity to look across incredibly large and complex supply chains, index the environmental “hot spots,” and work with key influencers on the chain.

Fertilizer Use

Nitrogen fertilizer use was one of those hot spots, giving EDF the opportunity to dig into greening the agricultural supply chain. Our work with Walmart to reduce 20 MMT of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain was a catalyst for focusing on optimizing fertilizer use. Now, by leveraging the power of businesses across the entire food supply chain, EDF and collaborators are on track to optimize 23 million acres of U.S. farmland by 2020.

Deforestation

Demand for commodities such as beef, soy, and palm oil are responsible for an estimated eighty percent of forest loss across the globe, and 12 percent of climate change. In response, major companies like Walmart, Cargill, McDonald’s and 260 others have made commitments to achieve a deforestation-free supply chain. We’re helping companies create the systems to understand where their products come from and achieve their commitments.

EDF’s solution orients supply-chain commitments at the level of Zero Deforestation Zones: entire political jurisdictions —nations, states or counties that are able to demonstrate reductions in deforestation and ultimately achieve zero net deforestation within their borders. Sourcing agricultural commodities from ZDZs has the benefit of reducing costs and complexity in monitoring supply chains. We are simultaneously building the demand for deforestation-free products from major brands and retailers and creating supply of Zero Deforestation Zones (ZDZs) in first-mover states in Brazil.

Hazardous Chemicals

In the U.S., more than 10,000 additives are allowed in food during manufacturing, processing, packaging and transport. While many of these chemicals are essential to the modern food supply, we know far too little about the health risks they pose to the public. EDF is developing a systematic approach to addressing hazardous food additives that is firmly grounded in rigorous scientific and policy analysis. Drawing on multiple years of research on science and policy behind chemical additives and decades of successful partnerships with corporate America, EDF is currently engaged in getting companies to adopt policies for safer food and consumer products. Our goal is to define a pathway for business to send the demand signal to move chemicals of concern out of the marketplace.

EDF and our corporate partners are making great gains, but there is so much more to be done. We need to keep building and strengthening the business lever by getting more companies to actively send smart demand signals across their supply chains. It’s good for the planet, and it’s good for business. Everyone wins.

One comment

  • Jillian Jordan | 2 years ago

    Responsible companies should be doing this. Individuals can vote with their wallets to speed up the progress.

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