As a working mother, I often have to multi-task. Recently, as I watched my toddler push his food around his plate, I caught up on last week’s news that Fortune had released its annual “Change the World” list of top companies using the profit motive to help the planet and tackle social problems.
About 10 percent of this list consists of corporate leaders who are thinking critically about the challenge to feed our world in a sustainable way without destroying our planet, including companies like Kroger (#6), Walmart (#16), Tyson Foods (#44), McDonald’s (#50) and PepsiCo(#57). These companies know that a thriving community requires a fed community.
While I’m thankful to Fortune for sharing best practices from these incredible, game-changing companies, I’m also painfully aware that the corporate sector at large has a lot more work to do: a recent survey by Bain & Company found that only four percent of companies feel that they’ve succeeded in achieving their sustainability goals, while 47 percent feel that they’ve failed altogether.
Speaking as both a mother and a sustainable supply chain specialist, that’s simply not good enough. We are already facing the massive challenge of producing even more food with fewer inputs. We are already facing increasingly variable weather. And in just a few decades, our planet will be home to 2 billion more people to feed.
What’s my point? Next year, food and agriculture companies, I want to see more of you on Fortune’s list. So to help you on this quest, I’m officially issuing you a two-part challenge:
I. Engage every part of your supply chain
This means going after your Scope 3 emissions, which encompass every component – from product design to end use – of your company’s supply chain.
For agricultural supply chains, there are three main stakeholders: farmers, companies and consumers. It’s important to ensure farmers are rewarded for their stewardship, companies feel knowledgeable about reducing their supply chain risk and consumers have access to transparent information about their environmental footprint from the foods they eat. Trust me: I am not the only mother who cares about the path food takes from the farm to my baby’s plate.
Translating across these groups requires patience and creativity. It also requires compromises and trade-offs. Grocers and food retailers are stepping up to show they can make a difference, but from their unique position in the middle of the supply chain, they have the opportunity (and an obligation) to engage both with their agricultural suppliers, as well as with everyday consumers, like you and me. Managing Scope 3 emissions both upstream and downstream isn’t easy, but it pays off.
I won’t lie: getting alignment across this diverse array of nodes can be slow, complicated and even tedious (imagine how different the needs and pressure points are between, say, growers and consumer packaged good companies or retailers, who are on opposite ends of the chain).
The key to even getting started on alignment? Collaboration. There are many, on-going ways to “partner up”, such as:
So please accept my challenge, food and ag companies. You truly will be “changing the world” – a feat that will not only get you noticed by Fortune, but will win you accolades from your customers and shareholders as well.
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