Here at the Aspen Ideas Festival, much of the conversation has been focused on how to do more with less as we examine how to meet the needs of the next billion, including the lively discussion I just participated in alongside Helene Gayle, Tom Daschle, and Dan Glickman.
Our conversation focused on food security, climate change challenges and the urgent focus they bring to developing sustainable agricultural systems. Almost one billion people currently lack access to adequate food and nutrition. Agricultural systems are challenged by increasingly scarce natural resources and a growing number of extreme weather events.
As a business that depends on agricultural raw materials for every product we make, from Quaker Oats and Lay’s Potato Chips to Tropicana Orange Juice, it is critical that PepsiCo works with farmers and other partners in our agricultural supply chain to build resilience, efficiency and adaptability. It is no longer just about getting the right volume and quality of raw materials to the back doors of our manufacturing plants; it is about doing so in a way that efficiently uses natural resources and minimizes environmental impact. While this is intrinsically part of our sustainability program, Performance with Purpose, it is also deeply a part of managing risk to our supply chain and just makes good business sense if we want our business to grow.
To that end, we have developed tools such as i-crop™ with Cambridge University Farms and the Cool Farm Tool with the Sustainable Food Lab, the University of Aberdeen and Unilever – both designed to help producers maximize yield while managing water application and reducing greenhouse gas emissions respectively.
Tools like these are important elements of our Sustainable Farming Initiative, which is currently under development. The Initiative, which began in 2010, is designed to be applicable for any country, crop, land-base size and for any farmer, large or small-scale.
The Initiative has three pillars: environmental, social and economic and is unique in that it will apply to all crops grown in all geographies by any scale farmer and is a continuous improvement program, rather than a standard one for just a single moment in time. The environmental pillar includes nine sustainability indicators — soil, water, air, energy, agrochemicals, nutrients, GHGs, waste and biodiversity — with detailed criteria and best practices for each. We are also developing the social and economic pillars, which will include indicators covering health and safety, employment practices and working conditions, among others – after all, a true sustainability program promotes proper management of economic and social resources in addition to environmental resources. We expect to launch the complete program globally in 2013 and are striving for our growers and agricultural suppliers to be compliant by 2020.
With the rising commodity prices and scarce resources we are all experiencing, doing more with less has become a mantra for us at PepsiCo. For example, our potato farmers in the UK are increasing yields during times of drought with the combined use of i-crop™ and drip irrigation. In India, our potato farmers have increased yields while conserving 200 million liters of water in 2010 alone! When outfitted with the right tools and trained in their use, this mantra can spread around the globe. Doing more while using less, we’ll have the right ingredients for the recipe to feed the next billion.
Beth Sauerhaft, Ph.D.
Director of Global Environmental Sustainability, PepsiCo
Beth Sauerhaft works in the Global Health and Agriculture Policy group as the Director of Global Environmental Sustainability at PepsiCo where she carries out long-term risk analysis and strategy development to enable the company to reduce risk as the portfolio expands to include healthier products. Her work more specifically focuses on leading towards the integration of health, nutrition, environmental sustainability and agriculture.
Before joining PepsiCo in 2007, she worked for the US EPA as the Deputy to the Agricultural Counselor. In that position, she provided policy advice to the Agricultural Counselor, the Administrator and other EPA managers on a variety of agricultural issues cutting across functional responsibilities of the Agency.
Prior to working at EPA, Beth worked at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service where she held national leadership responsibility for Atmospheric Resource Quality Management issues and before that was a District Conservationist in New York.
Beth is the Chair of her town’s Sustainability Advisory Board and has recently become a member of the Board of Directors of the Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation.
Beth earned a Ph.D. in Rangeland Ecology and Management from Texas A&M University with research in arid land agroforestry. She has a Masters of Environmental Management from Duke University in Natural Resource Ecology and a BA degree in American Studies from Grinnell College in Iowa.