A group of global food and beverage companies are using the launch of a new carbon-management web app to call for greater industry collaboration on agricultural sustainability.
Members of The Cool Farm Institute (CFI) — including PepsiCo, Unilever, Heineken, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Yara and Fertilizers Europe — have spearheaded the development of an online tool to help farmers assess and improve the environmental and economic performance of their businesses.
But the Institute members say that the scale and complexity of the challenge is so great that more cooperation is essential to secure an environmentally responsible, climate resilient and economically sustainable food system of the future. To support this goal the CFI, a project of the Sustainable Food Lab, has launched the new calculator and is inviting businesses of all sizes to join their initiative.
Richard Heathcote, executive committee member of the Cool Farm Institute, launched the call for action earlier this week at the 2014 Farming Futures conference in the UK — an event exploring the role of agricultural technologies in delivering food supply-chain resilience.
“The Cool Farm Institute has brought together leading academics and major food and drink industry players to develop a user-friendly, online version of The Cool Farm Tool,” Heathcote said. “The CFI is now looking forward to seeing many more farm assessments being done all over the world on a range of crop and livestock systems. The Institute also has exciting plans to extend the tool’s capabilities to other key environmental metrics, such as water and biodiversity.”
The Cool Farm Tool already has been successfully used by farmers of all sizes and types across the world to understand the carbon footprint of their production systems and adapt management to improve their performance, from smallholder cotton and coffee farmers in India and Kenya to egg and potato producers in the US and UK.
“It’s exciting to see the results of what happens when you combine a willingness to collaborate and an enabling technology,” Carmel McQuaid, Head of Sustainable Business at Marks & Spencer, said. “I’m hopeful this will transform the business of reducing farm emissions from being a burden on farmers to being a valuable decision support tool.”
Jan Kees Vis, Global Director of Sustainable Sourcing Development at Unilever, said: “Reporting greenhouse gas emissions is part of the Metric Reporting requirements of our Sustainable Agriculture Code. Therefore, the Cool Farm Tool is important to us as we head towards achieving our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan targets. It brings practical benefits for farmers, to help reduce carbon emissions on their farms. The aim is that more and more companies in the agricultural sector start using this tool, so that we can see real industry transformation.”
Lisa Buckley-Hoyle, Tesco Group Food Technical Director said: “We were really excited to trial the tool with a group of our producers through our Tesco Producer Network in 2013. As the first retailer to do this, Tesco was able to suggest improvements to the CFT prior to its launch this year. We are now working with a wider group of producers to support using the tool to track their carbon reductions and resource efficiency.”
Last month, the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform published a new Green Coffee Carbon Footprint Product Category Rule (CFP-PCR), providing the first CPR for the calculation of GHG emissions from coffee production. The Green Coffee CFP-PCR was initiated by SAI Platform’s Coffee Working group members, including illycaffé, Nestlé, Tchibo, Mondelez and Lavazza, and standard-setting bodies 4C, Fairtrade International, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certified, in collaboration with the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH). SAI Platform said the Green Coffee CFP-PCR will standardize the application of GHG emissions calculations by reducing differences between individual studies and products, and harmonizing methodological approaches.