Innovating For The Collision Of Sustainability, Nutrition And Business – Forbes

Millets are a type of ancient grain that is an alternative to soybeans and corn. Millets are … [+] nutritious and drought-resistant.
The dialogue around the future of the food industry is intensifying, and the world’s largest companies are leading the shift toward a transformative era in how we produce and consume our food. In 2021, PepsiCo announced an ambitious goal to expand regenerative farming practices across 7 million acres by 2030, aiming to eliminate at least 3 million tons of greenhouse gases. Subsequently, Walmart and Cargill committed to adopting these practices over 50 million and 10 million acres, respectively, also by 2030.

The Natural Resources Defense Council defines regenerative farming as a movement that “addresses the climate crisis with practices that sequester more carbon in the soil and help make farmland—and local communities—more resilient.” As Christopher Marquis shared in Forbes, the shift to regenerative practices requires collaboration between forward-thinking farmers and financial/retailer partners, as the largest portion of food-related greenhouse gas emissions comes from agriculture and land use.

The shift in understanding, coupled with consumer demand for sustainable practices in the food supply chain, has accelerated the need for leading companies to identify and implement solutions to address the climate crisis. This is a golden opportunity to work against the friction of the short-term operating model to implement long-term strategies that encourage innovation, prioritize sustainability and drive change across the industry.

Erin Kappelhof, CEO of Eat Well Global, highlights a significant shift in the industry: “Business priorities, narratives and health-related goals previously focused exclusively on the reduction of nutrients of concern and maybe enhancement of nutrients consumers wanted more of. Today, we see such a major shift toward regenerative agriculture and sustainability, which overlays beautifully with broadened corporate nutrition and well-being agendas.”

Unilever is an example of a company expanding its focus beyond traditional health and nutrition perspectives in favor of specific implementation guidelines for regenerative farming practices for soils, water, climate, biodiversity and livelihoods, marking a monumental change that encompasses something entirely new: the environmental impact of food. But discussions on well-being, nutrition and environmental impact remain largely in separate and disconnected conversations.

Consumers generally want to make the right spending choices to purchase sustainable and healthy food. However, food suppliers and retailers must make these choices affordable and accessible.

The world’s largest companies must take action to achieve a meaningful dual impact of a healthier planet and healthier people. But are these companies ready to functionally adapt to the opportunities in regenerative agriculture to build the food portfolio of the future? Several obstacles exist, including a lack of marketplace infrastructure for regenerative farming crops, outdated supply chain systems, rising global demand for protein and a lack of case studies or success stories to encourage prospective adopters.

While these obstacles are multifaceted, they are not insurmountable.

If we continue on our current path, a different future is simply not possible. Companies with significant influence over global supply chains and consumer behavior can lead the way by reevaluating operational models and fostering innovation within their portfolios to create new and scalable approaches to implement regenerative farming practices.

So, where do we start?

Nicole Balderas, founder of Bell Mountain Consulting, advocates for deeply understanding your supply chain and using that information to create the case for better food. “Take steps into sourcing foods that are grown via more sustainable approaches—such as a water-friendly crop, a cover crop, an alternative fertilizer or source a small regenerative crop—and just start. Start building demand for better.”

To effectively address sustainability, we must rethink and reassess our approach through an innovation lens:
· Identify the overlapping attributes of different products that are positive for the planet and people.
· Integrate water-friendly ingredients into new products.
· Commit to investing in how and where products are grown using regenerative and organic practices.
· Source crops that are regeneratively grown, even if the process is imperfect.
· Understand and address the current limitations in sourcing sustainably at scale.
· Consider strategies to make healthier, more sustainable food that’s accessible at scale for everyone and work to integrate these strategies into the food supply chain.
· Build consumer demand. For example, California and Massachusetts passed legislation prohibiting extreme farm animal confinement. However, most consumers don’t understand or have visibility into the way animals are raised or potential related health risks.

To embrace a portfolio of the future, encourage your stakeholders to take the following steps:

· Determine your starting point by conducting a life cycle analysis of where the business is today, informing the decision on where to go next.
· Understand that nothing is black and white—you must understand the nuances.
· Dial in on policy and regulation.
· Recognize that transformational change takes a long time and involves many collaborators. Failures and imperfection are a big part of what must be embraced on a large scale.
· Revamp long-term metrics by honoring and learning from actions and failures.
· Acknowledge that this is a long game that doesn’t necessarily fit into short-term profits.

Erin Kappelhof sums up the future simply: “The book hasn’t yet been written.”

While the U.S. agricultural industry still lacks unified regenerative farming standards, innovative companies willing to invest in new systems and processes can make a significant impact by joining the movement toward more sustainable agriculture. Transforming an industry can’t happen overnight, but scale initiatives and a commitment to implement a single, new objective with each opportunity that presents can shape a delicious, nutritious and safer tomorrow.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *