Stories | September 26, 2017 | Read Time: 4 minutes
Commitment and Collaboration Will Dictate Our Success in Addressing Climate Change
Agriculture is at the epicenter of our global efforts to address climate change. Perhaps more than any other industry, farmers are dramatically affected by the impacts of a climate that is growing warmer, drier and more volatile. Changes in our climate can put tremendous pressure on those who are working to produce enough nutritious food for our growing global population.
But it’s not the only challenge the world’s farmers face. They are also tasked with reducing the amount of resources that they use while growing our food. We must address farming and climate change challenges in parallel, balancing the needs of people and our planet in all that we do. That’s really what modern agriculture is all about: developing new tools that help farmers grow more while using less and reducing their impact on the environment.
I recently had the opportunity to share thoughts on our industry’s progress in addressing climate change during a roundtable at Fortune’s The CEO Initiative in New York City. As an industry, we’re making great progress on a number of fronts to develop and adopt modern agriculture tools. But more is needed to get where we need to be.
Among other topics, the discussion at The CEO Initiative focused on two requirements that sit at the foundation of our efforts to address climate change: commitment and collaboration. I firmly believe that these two principles will determine our success in addressing the linked challenges of climate change and food security.
Taking a Stand, and Backing It Up
It all starts with industry acknowledgement of the challenges of climate change and strong, measurable commitments by industry players to do their part to address them.
I’m proud of the actions Monsanto has taken not only to manage our own carbon footprint, but also to help provide a blueprint for others in agriculture and beyond. As a first step, about two years ago, we committed to make our entire operational footprint carbon neutral by 2021. We see these efforts as table stakes in this age of climate change, and we encourage others in our industry to adopt similar commitments.
Working Together to Address Climate Change
We can all work individually to help address climate change, but we have an opportunity to make a much more significant difference when we work together in agriculture to drive change and test solutions that can support farmers all around the world.
During the past two years, one area we’ve focused on is working with our contract seed growers to implement carbon-smart farming practices on our contracted acres of seed production. Practices like cover crops and reduced tillage can help improve soil health and water quality, slow erosion impacts, and actually help soil absorb and store carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere.
Through the combined efforts with our seed production partners, we’ve seen a reduction of about 140,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from our contract seed production – with significantly more to come. And through initiatives like National Corn Growers Association’s Soil Health Partnership, which is a collaboration with key industry leaders, farmers, and environmentally focused nonprofit partners like the Environmental Defense Fund, we are helping evaluate and share best practices among U.S. farmers. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made, but we know there’s more work to do.
The Next Step: Stronger Commitment and Broader Collaboration
We’re making significant progress, but I believe we need to see more leaders take action within the agriculture industry and other adjacent industries that support efforts to address climate change.
First and foremost, we need to be united as an agriculture sector in acknowledging that climate change is real, and that it represents a significant challenge for humanity. The science is clear on this, just as it is clear in helping us to develop modern agriculture solutions.
We need all members of the agricultural community – companies, nonprofits, farmers and government bodies – to commit to working with farmers to deliver tools to fight climate change, and to minimize their operations’ impact on the environment and our precious natural resources.
And finally, we need to broaden our collaboration and partnerships to share information and devise and develop new ways that can help us accomplish our goal of growing more while using fewer resources. If we see continued positive movement in these directions, I believe we will make great progress in addressing both climate change and food security in the years ahead.