By Aaron Pickering
In Louisiana, a farmer continues her father’s legacy of growing quality rice, making a living by producing a key ingredient for breakfast cereals enjoyed around the world. Meanwhile, in Sierra Leone, 5,000 smallholder farmers have been trained as beekeepers – which will help families pay school tuition for their children.
These stories aren’t from NGOs or the lifestyle section of a local paper. It might be surprising, but they actually come from major corporations: Kellogg, which is working with growers and farmers to limit environmental impacts in its supply chain, and General Mills, which is helping farmers develop sustainable beekeeping businesses in Sierra Leone. Big changes are taking place in the agriculture industry, as some of the world’s largest brands increase their focus on having a positive social, economic and environmental impact, while continuing to grow and produce the food that millions have made a part of their daily lives.
This idea of “sustainable agriculture” is of increasing importance as today – more than ever before – consumers care about where their food comes from. According to a recent study by Trace One, 68 percent of U.S. consumers said they are not provided with enough information about what is in their food and where it comes from. In fact, the vast majority of consumers reported that it is important to know where their food is coming from. At the same time, target consumer groups like Millennials consider sustainability as an important factor in making purchasing decisions. A recent Cone Communications study found that while health and safety and nutritional value remain the most important, 77 percent of Millennials consider product sustainability as an important factor.
Given consumers’ motivations and evolving feelings about food, it makes sense companies like General Mills and Kellogg’s are telling compelling stories about where their products come from and how they’re made. So, what does it take to craft a powerful narrative and develop effective communications about corporate sustainable agriculture efforts? Let’s take a look at two other companies that are doing it well.
Aaron Pickering is an account director on Cone Communications’ Corporate Communications team with over a decade of experience in strategic public relations, project management and media relations. Aaron advises corporate and nonprofit clients on how to effectively communicate with diverse stakeholders, articulate their vision and build brand awareness. He has worked with companies and organizations across industries and on a range of issues – from labor and human rights to the environment – to tell compelling stories, cultivate media relationships and engage stakeholders to launch strategic public relations campaigns that change minds and drive results. Aaron also teaches as an adjunct professor at The George Washington University.