May 2011 Newsletter
The Sustainable Food Lab is a consortium of business, non-profit and public organizations working to accelerate the shift toward sustainability in the food system globally.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to register for the Sustainable Food Lab 2011 Leadership Summit and reserve your place before the meeting is full. To find more information and register for the Summit, click HERE.
Some organizations are sending teams, including Sodexo, PepsiCo, Dairy Management Incorporated, Mendoza School of Business, and Guelph University. Other organizations represented will include: Aramark, Ben & Jerry’s, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Cabot Creamery, C.H.Robinson, Conservation International, Clif Bar, Costco, Dannon, Del Monte, Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative, FAO, Food Alliance, Ford Foundation, Food Marketing Institute, General Mills, Golden Heritage Foods, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, IIED, CIAT, Japan for Sustainability, Keystone Field to Market, Mars, Meridian Institute, MIT, Organic Valley, Oxfam, Packard Foundation, PepsiCo, Pulse Canada, Rainforest Alliance, Scientific Certification Systems, SureHarvest, Starbucks, Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops, Stonyfield, Subway, Sustainability Consortium, Sustainable Harvest, SYSCO, The James Beard Foundation, Truitt Brothers, Unilever, University of Wisconsin, UTZ Certified, Wal-Mart, Wilcox Farms, and Wyman’s of Maine.
This is not a conference with ppt success stories, but rather an opportunity to explore the frontiers of mainstreaming sustainability. We will take a hard look at the gap between the current rate of progress and where we need to go. We’ll also dig into practical tools and leadership capabilities.
What will it take for sustainability initiatives to be lasting and at scale, profitable for all players in supply chains? For example, what are the experiences of producers collecting data for sustainability systems--what are the costs, and what are the benefits? What needs to happen to improve the value proposition?
In developing country smallholder systems, how is sustainability and livelihood performance efficiently measured? What are impacts of export crops on food security and local development?
What are we learning about change leadership in our organizations as sustainability shifts from being bolted-on to baked-in?We will also be gathering input for the design of a Sustainable Supply Chain Academy with top business schools and European colleagues.
With thanks to Unilever, Sysco and Sodexo for helping to sponsor the summit, and to the Gates, Ford and Packard Foundations for supporting some of the project work.
To find more information and register for the Sustainable Food Lab Leadership Summit, click HERE.
Many of the farming systems will release their results at the Food Lab’s Summit in Portland at the end of June.
More information on the Cool Farming Options Project HERE
More Metrics NewsFor the past two and a half years, the Sustainable Food Lab has supported the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops in developing performance-based metrics for sustainable agriculture. Many Food Lab members are on the coordinating council for this initiative including Sodexo, Sysco and Unilever. The Food Lab occupies a seat on the steering committee and is facilitating the development of the GHG and Energy metrics.
Revisions to the Energy metric are being reviewed by the working group and coordinating council. If these revisions meet with approval the Energy metric will be piloted more widely this year.
The GHG metric is moving forward with prototyping the metric as presented during a March 1st Stewardship Index webinar. This metric will utilize a computer simulator (DNDC) to provide growers with a GHG emissions figure, a rough indication of confidence associated with that figure and a set of modeled alternative management scenarios so that growers can see where their score falls relative to what may be achieved with management changes. A first version of the prototype is expected in June.
Measuring Sustainable Agriculture –
Andrew Arnold, SureHarvest
Members of the California processing tomato industry came together recently in Modesto, CA to hear about how the Cool Farm Tool (CFT) can be used to better understand on-farm greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The meeting was sponsored by SFL member Heinz who buys tomato paste for their branded products from a number of the co-packers in California. In the room were growers, representatives from the co-packer companies’ grower relations, a seed company, an NGO, a researcher from UC Davis, and the heads of the California Tomato Growers Assn. and the California Tomato Research Institute. This was a nearly complete representation of the tomato supply chain with the exception of retailers and food service providers!
As part of its corporate sustainability mission, Heinz is “addressing climate change from the ground up” and looking to reduce the carbon footprint of its supply chain. Heinz conducts numerous education and outreach activities to growers who are critical in helping address the agricultural link in the chain. As part of that effort, growers were given a CFT overview and asked to provide feedback on its usability and value to their operations.
Feedback was generally positive in terms of the types of data needed to run the CFT model and the immediate results in terms of changes to per acre and per ton CO2 emission changes based upon changing some practices like fertilizer types, equipment passes, and tillage styles. Certain items for improvement were noted like having more fertilizers to pick from, incorporating input costs, and seeing the impact of crop rotation selections.
Growers noted that one of the challenges for the CFT is that there are varying levels of sophistication in crop record keeping and the ability to get some of the CFT data input elements – fertilizers, electricity, and equipment fuel. There were also concerns with the additional costs to collect some of the data at the field level.
Growers are faced with a balancing act between the economic realities of the annual business cycle of growing row crops and addressing the longer term environmental cycles. Input usage is carefully watched from cost and yield optimization perspectives.
The overall feedback from the growers was consistent with what was learned in the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops 2010 pilot where 35 growers of 16 crops in 8 states collected data for a number of sustainability metrics including water, nutrients, energy and biodiversity.
To sufficiently benefit growers there need to be tangible benefits to them for collecting and reporting the data. One grower stated that one benefit may be having the data help “tell the story of the California tomato industry” at time when growers feel increasing regulatory pressure.
The bottom line at the meeting was that the Cool Farm Tool is a good start for looking at inputs and practices that affect GHG emissions on the farm. Additional improvements to the software to address tomato growing specifics were discussed.
As supply chain-wide discussions of sustainability continue in the hope that true value chains can be formed, the question of the day was – how do all members of the processing tomato “community” benefit from measuring and managing sustainability metrics in their operations? The discussion continues…
Andrew Arnold manages the Professional Services arm of SureHarvest, where he collaborates with commodity associations and agrifood companies to design and develop sustainable practice programs.
The Body Shop has adapted to the needs of small scale producers in their supply chains by increasing stability in their buying approach (fair pricing, forecasting, and predictable demand) and supporting capacity building. Sodexho Madagascar has developed local supply chains to supply remote mines through local partnerships. Small-scale outdoor flower producers in Kenya have learned that they can sell directly to the retail market in the UK, but that investments in product innovation and responsive customer management capacity are critical to success. These are among the many stories and lessons shared in a new web site, www.linkingworlds.org.
The Sustainable Food Lab -- on behalf of the New Business Models for Sustainable Trading Relationships Project, and with support from the Unilever Oxfam partnership on smallholder sourcing-- is pleased to announce the launch of a new web based learning platform to support companies and non-profits that are working on supply chains that are inclusive of small scale producers in developing countries. Oxfam, the Sustainable Food Lab, IIED, CIAT, Rainforest Alliance, Catholic Relief Services and others have been working in partnership with companies over the last four years to create sourcing arrangements that meet stringent supply chain criteria and deliver development benefits such as more stable trading relationships, income and improved food security.
This work has generated a wealth of stories and lessons for connecting farmers to markets in ways that reduce poverty while at the same time offering companies a chance to diversify their supply base and appeal to ethically-motivated consumers. In addition to successes, these projects have illuminated challenges and barriers that arise when linking the worlds of diverse and fragmented small-scale farmers with the needs of modern supply chains. These experiences have highlighted the importance of understanding the market systems of the crop and analyzing the investments needed for smallholders to participate. In addition, understanding the opportunities and constraints in the household system and ecosystem simultaneously enables the identification of strategies to support marginalized producers to “step in” and “step up” within the market system.
The Linking Worlds website is a resource for practitioners and researchers who are taking on these challenges. It facilitates the sharing of experiences and “new business models” through research papers, case studies, tools, impact studies, and descriptions of active “action-learning” projects. This set of resources is a starting point to share what we are learning, and we aim to add tools and cases that further enrich the site over the years ahead.
Please visit www.linkingworlds.org
Most of us expect long term supply problems for products that depend upon agriculture. Rising demand is meeting declining soil quality and shrinking availability of water, phosphorus and nitrogen. For most buyers these problems are off in the future, however, masked by productivity in the present.
Fishing has been different from farming. People started overfishing when whale fisheries collapsed almost 200 years ago. We persisted with our chase farther and deeper, but finally it’s clear to all that when fishing depletes breeding stock, whole species populations can free fall. Many fisheries now have a hard time meeting the market’s desire for marine ecosystems that are “sustainably managed.”
If fisheries are a “canary in the coal mine” of the food system, coffee and cocoa might play a similar role. High quality coffee and cocoa need specific ecological zones as well as farmers with the capacity to adapt to climate change and and meet the quality demands of the market. Some growing regions are getting hotter and rainfall more erratic. Supply is threatened, and buyers are concerned. In that respect coffee and cocoa are like fish.
We can’t figure out what to do about these challenges by finding someone to blame. Just as no single fisherman wants to catch the last fish, no organization in agriculture wants to use up the last water or ton of fertilizer. No farmer wants to deplete topsoil. The whole system, however, generates unintended consequences: the so-called “race to the bottom.”
Luckily, we’re also in the midst of a race to the top: hundreds of sustainable supply chain initiatives, thousands of community projects, dozens of labels, new outcome metrics systems, and very promising multi-stakeholder commodity roundtables to create standards. Agriculture can reduce emissions, sequester carbon, build soil, and use water much more efficiently.
What will it take for these initiatives to become sufficiently lasting and scalable to enable us to collectively manage future supply challenges? Can business find the strategic value in long-term growth and profit, even if the payback is not in the short term? Can governments act beyond the next election cycle?
These are among the questions for deliberation in Portland in June. Our initiatives need practical tools to calibrate progress in ways that are useful for management. Our organizations need better actuarial capacities to calibrate long-term necessities against short-term costs.
Ironically, if agriculture is like fishing, we can be quite hopeful. When fisheries are managed for the future, breeding stock populations build, and yield increases. When farming is managed for the future, soil is healthier, carbon is pulled out of the atmosphere and held as soil organic matter, more water is retained, and yields increase. When our organizations are managed for the future they might also be healthier.
See you in Portland and beyond,
Mendoza School of Business at Notre Dame
|May 18-19, 2011||World Cocoa Foundation Partnership Meeting, San Francisco, CA, USA. SFL staff Stephanie Daniels facilitating: Cocoa and Environmental Stewardship.|
|June 26-30, 2011||Sustainable Food Lab 2011 Summit, Operationalizing Sustainability in Supply Chains, Portland, OR, USA|
|June 7, 2011||New England Dairy Collaborative Meeting|
|September 12-14, 2011||
FMI/GMA Sustainability Summit, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA
|September 28 - 30, 2011||Foundations for Leadership, taught by Peter Senge, Boston, USA|
Connecting Smallholders to Modern Markets, Learning Journey for New Business Model and Oxfam GB partners, Ethiopia
|October 12-13, 2011||James Beard Foundation/Sustainable Food Lab conference, Good Housekeeping headquarters, New York City, USA|