Business is booming.

Cargill ingredients are probably in every meal you eat. That makes the company's environmental goals a big deal.

Pilar Cruz
Pilar Cruz, chief sustainability officer at Cargill.

  • Cargill, the largest private company in the US, buys from farmers and ranchers in 70 countries.
  • Insider spoke with Pilar Cruz, Cargill's chief sustainability officer, about its environmental work.
  • The company has faced criticism over hazards including deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.

Cargill buys corn, soy, palm oil, cocoa, and livestock from farmers and ranchers in 70 countries, then transports these goods around the world and processes them to be sold to companies like McDonald's and Nestlé.

That gives Cargill, which pulled in revenue of $165 billion in its last fiscal year, enormous power to improve the food system so it doesn't lead to deforestation and produce carbon dioxide and methane emissions that are frying the planet.

Some environmental groups, including Greenpeace and, accuse Cargill of not doing enough on those fronts. Even though the agribusiness giant for decades has tried to root out suppliers who clear tropical rainforests in South America and Southeast Asia, Cargill was among major food companies that promised to end deforestation in their supply chains by 2020 but failed to meet the target.

Insider spoke to Pilar Cruz, Cargill's chief sustainability officer and the first Latina promoted to its executive team, about how the 158-year-old company is trying to meet new deforestation goals and reduce emissions on farms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How would you explain what Cargill does?

We move food from places where it is grown, to the places where it is needed. We operate from farm to fork. Think about the chocolate you eat, or the soy and corn that goes into so many products, or the McDonald's hamburger. Pretty much every time you have breakfast, lunch, or dinner, there will be a Cargill ingredient in there.

These ingredients could also be in your beauty products, because we are trying to replace petrochemicals in makeup.

What is Cargill doing about the climate crisis?

We see the intersection between climate change and food security because we know that the more productive and efficient the food system becomes, the more we can mitigate climate change, eliminate deforestation, and also feed a growing population.

Our sustainability strategy has three priorities: climate change, land use and water, and human rights — so diversity, equity and inclusion, and gender empowerment.

Within the four walls of Cargill, we measure the water use and the greenhouse gas emissions from the power and energy we use at our meat and manufacturing plants. Once a quarter, we look at our performance against commitments we made to reduce them.

Through our RegenConnect program in North America, we partner with farmers in 24 states in the US to help them grow more with less. These practices include no-till farming, planting cover crops, and using less inputs like nitrogen fertilizer and water. The impact has been positive. In 2021 we conducted a survey of 100 farms with the Soil Health Institute and found that 85% of farmers saw an increase in income.

That program has been expanded into Germany, Romania, and Poland.

We also have a partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Burger King, McDonald's and Target to restore grasslands in the Southern Plains, increase the resiliency of the soil, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

What about outside of North America, in places like Brazil and West Africa, where demand for products like beef, soy, and cocoa is causing deforestation?

The Amazon and Cerrado rainforests are super important to soy production. We committed $30 million to the Land Innovation Fund in partnership with local NGOs, farmers, and governments to advance more sustainable practices in the region.

And in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, we also provide training on how to protect, manage, and restore the land.

Why didn't Cargill meet a 2020 deadline to end deforestation and push that back to 2030?

I would focus on the work we're doing at the moment. We're working with 14 different companies on a roadmap facilitated by The Tropical Forest Alliance, in partnership with the US and UK governments. As part of that effort, we moved up our commitment to be deforestation-free in Brazil — specifically in the Amazon, Cerrado, and Gran Chaco — from 2030 to 2025 (for soy, cocoa, and palm).

A lot of the work we do is on the ground with the farmers. Our commitment is to protect, manage, and restore 100,000 hectares in the region.

In addition to that, we are investing in traceability and transparency by geolocating farms with polygon maps and satellite monitoring to detect changes and take immediate action if needed.

A farmer can earn money selling cattle or soybeans, but there aren't strong financial incentives to protect nature. It seems like that has to change to prevent deforestation, the majority of which is driven by agricultural expansion. What is Cargill doing about that?

The RegenConnect program that we introduced in the US pays farmers for environmental outcomes. (A Cargill spokesperson added that the company also offers premium payments to soy growers in South America enrolled in a company sustainability program. Some 400 farmers are participating.)

Cargill made $165 billion in revenue last year. How much of that is the company investing in sustainability initiatives, and do you think it's enough given the urgency of the climate crisis?

We have accelerated our timelines, actions, and investments because we know we must act now. From a financial standpoint, as a private company, we don't share exact numbers, but I can tell you sustainability is a core part of our company strategy and we have invested hundreds of millions around the globe in sustainability efforts.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Source link

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.