Keith Nunes 2019KANSAS CITY — Many food and beverage manufacturers that have prioritized sustainability as part of their corporate strategies have made commitments to reduce waste and embrace climate-friendly production practices. Many of the commitments came with completion dates of 2025 or 2030. Now, as those dates are becoming visible on the horizon, concrete plans are being put in place to achieve the stated goals.

One example is One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B), a coalition formed in 2019 of companies with a focus on agriculture. The group, whose members include some of the largest food and consumer goods manufacturers as well as retailers, is focused on mitigating climate change through three initiatives — scaling regenerative agriculture practices, boosting cultivated biodiversity and diets through product portfolios, and eliminating deforestation.

Today, the market is seeing the group’s efforts come to fruition as members, and other major food companies, are embracing aspects of the three initiatives.

The OP2B settled on the three priorities after members studied their supply chains to identify the best ways to protect and build biodiversity. Regenerative agriculture, for example, was included because alternative farming practices that leverage plants to keep carbon in soils, increase the capacity to hold water and enhance the resilience of crops were identified as a way to mitigate climate change.

Building biodiversity into product portfolios is a way to reduce reliance on a small number of crops. Diversification also may lead to expanding the genetic variety of crops grown to ensure food diversity, according to the OP2B. And eliminating deforestation is the best way to protect ecosystems deemed fragile, like grasslands, wetlands and forests.

Food company members of OP2B have been making progress developing programs to achieve the group’s goals. For example, Nestle SA, Vevey, Switzerland, committed to the development of more environmentally friendly crops and investing to assist producers who supply agricultural raw material to adopt regenerative agricultural practices. Even more important, Nestle said it will pay a premium for inputs produced using regenerative practices.

“We know that regenerative agriculture plays a critical role in improving soil health, restoring water cycles and increasing biodiversity for the long term,” said Paul Bulcke, chairman of Nestle. “These outcomes form the foundation of sustainable food production and, crucially, also contribute to achieving our ambitious climate targets.”

Unilever PLC, London, another member of the OP2B, published its Regenerative Agriculture Principles with the goal of making all product formulations biodegradable by 2030. Implementation of the principles is underway.

PepsiCo, Inc., Purchase, NY, is not a member of the OP2B, but its sustainability efforts align with the group’s goals. Initiatives include spreading regenerative agriculture practices to land mass equal to the company’s agricultural footprint of approximately 7 million acres.

Media coverage of droughts, flooding, fires and stronger, more frequent hurricanes has raised concern over the impact of climate change. There is growing demand for quick solutions, but it must be remembered there are no quick fixes. It has taken decades to get to this moment, and, hopefully, it will not take as long to address. It is encouraging to see the commitments food and beverage companies have made coming to fruition and exciting to consider where they may lead.