Nestle. Unilever. Walmart. Kellogg’s. Colgate-Palmolive. What do these companies have in common? They’re just a few of the global companies that have committed publicly over the last few years to work towards ridding their supply chains of raw agricultural commodities that directly cause deforestation.
Global deforestation is responsible for roughly 12 percent of world-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (IPCC)—more than double those generated by the entire U.S. electricity sector (EIA). In addition, deforestation is the greatest driver of biodiversity loss in the world, displaces indigenous populations and can drive major regional changes in weather patterns. Agricultural production drives 85 percent of global deforestation (Union of Concerned Scientists).
You may be thinking, “Why should that concern my company? We aren’t in a sector tied to agriculture or buy, sell or use commodities from countries engaged in deforestation.” That may be true if you only consider your company’s direct operations. If your company, however, produces or sells personal care or food products, or uses paper packaging, chances are high that deforestation causing commodities like soy, palm oil, timber, cattle, or derivative products of them are part of your supply chain.
EDF Project Manager and Geballe Fellow, Elizabeth Seeger, is in Lansdowne, Virginia this week attending the "Growing a 21st Century Agricultural Revolution" conference. She is joined by representatives from industry, government, the civic sector, and academia to discuss the concept of sustainability in agriculture. The conference organizers explain the issue by quoting then President-elect Obama:
Our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it's creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they're contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, and obesity.
Elizabeth is live-tweeting the event. A few of the tidbits she's picked up so far include:
- mcdonalds: sustainability is like having clean bathrooms in the stores: not an option or luxury.
- challenges to farmers' sustainability: 1) "sustainability" complex w many hard tradeoffs 2) fear/lack of transparency, 3) not enuf research and funding for, 4) lack metrics
- internally, orgs are concerned abt energy use, but see h2o as biggest supply chain issue in ag.
Check out the agenda and read more about the ongoing discussion in Lansdown.