Cargill finds new ways to monitor sustainable practices

by Jeff Gelski
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Cargill's climate change goals include reducing greenhouse gas emissions in its operations and supply chains.

MINNEAPOLIS — Advancements in sustainable practices included methods to measure such practices in Cargill’s 2015 corporate responsibility report issued Aug. 19.

The Minneapolis-based company in April began using drones in Indonesia to monitor forested land, which should help prevent further deforestation, a sustainable issue in the palm oil industry.

In its cocoa supply chain, Cargill this year launched a monitoring and evaluation system to provide greater transparency. The system collects data about farm sizes and crop yields as well as details about farmer organizations, communities and individual farmers who grow cocoa that Cargill sources from Cóte d’Ivoire.

In the United States, Cargill is recruiting corn and soybean growers to gather data by using the Fieldprint calculator created by Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. The calculator collects data on land use efficiency, soil conservation, soil carbon, water use, water quality, energy use and greenhouse gas (GHS) emissions. Cargill expects to have 100,000 acres of land included in this effort by the end of the year.

Cargill, in its 150th year of operation, stressed the current importance of sustainable practices.

“The world has changed dramatically since Cargill began operations in 1865,” Cargill said in its report. “Today, global agriculture and food businesses are being challenged to do two things at once: produce more food for a world that is becoming more urbanized and affluent while also using land and water responsibly, and satisfy consumers who increasingly care about the health and sustainability dimensions of the food they eat.

“Companies like Cargill are responding and bringing their best strengths to bear on issues like deforestation, food security and nutrition. For the past 10 years we have focused our civic engagement, our philanthropy, our partnerships and our expertise on these large global issues. We are making progress and are committed to playing a leading role in this changing landscape.”

Cargill has identified four focus areas in its commitment to sustainability: land use, water, climate change and farmer livelihoods.

Land use goals are seeking to end deforestation linked to supply chains.

Land use goals are seeking to end deforestation linked to supply chains, including the palm oil supply chain, and improving the use of degraded and underperforming lands. The company is on track to meet its goal of providing palm oil that is 100% traceable to the mill by the end of 2015 and sustainable by 2020.

Water goals are conservation in areas of water scarcity, improving water quality in areas impacted by agriculture, and promoting access to clean water. Cargill exceeded its freshwater efficiency goal this year and set a new target of improving freshwater efficiency at its facilities by an additional 5% beyond the 2015 baseline.

Climate change goals are reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Cargill’s operations and supply chains, and partnering with farmers to help agriculture adapt to a changing climate. The company in July joined the American Business Act on Climate Pledge along with 12 other companies. The act supports the U.S. government in efforts to reach a climate change agreement before the United Nations’ climate change conference scheduled for Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris.

Farmer livelihood goals are promoting sustainable agricultural practices to help farmers increase yields and incomes and advancing the well-being of agricultural communities. In Cóte d’Ivoire, Cargill is working with Consell du Café-Cacao, CARE and farmer cooperatives to improve education and health care in 14 cocoa-growing communities. The effort includes an investment of $1.9 million to build 11 new schools and 3 new health centers. The first facilities opened in June.

David MacLennan, president and c.e.o. of Cargill.
“At Cargill, we want to be the most trusted source of sustainable products and services,” said David MacLennan, president and chief executive officer. “Given our broad presence in food and agriculture, we know we have a fundamental responsibility for our environmental and social impact. From our pledge to end deforestation in our supply chains to our investments in expanding capacity for food production, I believe Cargill is making a difference in global issues of importance.”
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