Sustainable Agricultural Partnerships 2010 Comes to San Francisco

This coming week, I will be covering Sustainable Agricultural Partnerships 2010 in downtown San Francisco. The conference is the 4th summit in a global series on sustainable agriculture from American Business Conferences and sister company London Business Conferences.

The summit focuses on case studies and strategy formulation for sustainable water and carbon management practices throughout the agricultural supply chain. It is billed as the first corporate driven summit to include the active participation of growers and small-scale suppliers. There is also a strong emphasis on stakeholder engagement amongst the attendees who are primarily food and beverage manufacturers / processors and retailers, farmers, and suppliers.

The two-day event boasts an aggressive schedule of panels and breakout sessions. On Day One (August 10th), the focus is strategies and benefits on building innovative partnerships and creating success stories. Throughout the day, panelists will speak to policy driven opportunities, incentives for farmers, LCA partnerships, water footprinting, and managing carbon throughout the supply chain. The agenda for Day Two (August 11th) explores the practicalities of creating a sustainable agricultural supply chain through panels on developing consumer education solutions and strategies, benchmarking the effectiveness of standards and certifications, and managing social and environmental impacts. Sylvain Cuperlier, VP of Worldwide Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability for Dole serves as the event chair, while other key speakers include sustainability and supply chain execs from Burgerville, Dairy Management Inc, Dean Foods, Mars, and Nestle, to name a few.

This summit is particularly exciting because the agricultural supply chain provides for so many products – and not solely in the food and beverage industries – that sustainable strategies can significantly reduce the social and environmental impact of countless goods. Moreover, sustainable agriculture presents a complex situation for small growers and suppliers who operate within tight margins. I look forward to learning how some of these corporations have partnered with small-scale operations to address the costs associated with switching to efficient irrigation equipment, sustainable production practices, and measuring carbon and water use. The panels on water efficiency should prove especially interesting considering California’s current water crisis and the politics surrounding growers and water rights.

I look forward to relaying the strategies, solutions, and stories revealed at this conference. Until then, I am curious to know: considering the switching costs associated with sustainable agriculture, who do you think should subsidize cash-strapped growers – the government, corporations, consumers, or any combination of the above?


Ali Hart is a sustainable communications and engagement strategist with a passion for life’s essentials: food, water and storytelling. Her background in the Entertainment industry, penchant for humor and MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School are Ali’s secret weapons in her quest to master the art of behavior change and to make sustainability inconveniently fun.

Ali Hart

Ali Hart is a media strategist and content producer helping change agents harness the power of humor. From developing creative TV and web concepts to managing comedians to strategizing grassroots campaigns, she has devoted herself to exploring which messages and messengers inspire behavior change for good. Ali holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, where she currently laughs.

3 responses

  1. Ali – I like your enthusiam for digging into the switching costs on sustainable ag. I will be there as a small farmer and informally promoting my upcoming book, EcoCommerce 101 – that digs into that topic as well.
    Tim Gieseke

  2. It's a great question – Government has long subsidized farmers to get their products to market. The system is broken and government is running out of money so the model needs some clear re-thinking. However this scale of change cannot be fixed overnight given the stronghold of lobbying and political break-throughs that are necessary to make this type of re-thinking a reality. Therefore, the best approach is some combination. Corporations are able to be more agile and they can be recompensated through tax breaks which can incentivize participation and defer the initial price transfer to the customer. Change is hard. Consumers need to adopt new thinking and behaviors before they'll pay more. Creativity is critical to get them on board in order to bring them along on what will initially be price-driven market entry (at a mass scale). I look forward to hearing some progress from this conference!

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