Businesses facing climate change, water shortages, or community relations issues can improve their bottom line while also protecting biodiversity and improving rural livelihoods by using a “whole landscape” approach to land management. This is the major finding of a new report from The Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative, a collaboration of nine of the world’s leading anti-hunger, conservation and development organizations. Reducing Risk: Landscape Approaches to Sustainable Sourcing highlights how some visio nary companies that rely upon coffee, cocoa, water , and other resources in the developing world are going beyond piecemeal sustainability projects to take a more holistic approach.
“We face some very complex risks along our supply chains, all connected in some way to climate change . Addressing them only at the farm level won’t work . These problems involve too many interconnected variables , ” says Chris Brett, Olam International’s Head of Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability.
Landscape approaches are necessary because farm by farm level improvements often do not affect the crucial relationships between the farm and ecosystems, climate, cities, industry, and transport . These systems have big impacts on farm production and sustainability, but cannot be managed at the farm level. A landscape approach means tackling these systems in collaboration with other affected groups, to improve outcomes for everyone.
In fact, Reducing Risk finds that companies facing water, climate, and community risks must reach beyond the farm to mitigate them. And while addressing risks is important, companies are also finding opportunities in the landscape approach to make smarter investments in key sourcing areas.
“We’ve found that the fundamental causes of water risk to our breweries are the same as the causes of water problems facing communities and ecosystems,” remarks Anna Swaithes, Head of Water and Food Security Policy at SABMiller. “We recognize that these challenges can only be addressed through a landscape approach and multi-stakeholder collective action.”
Companies that have begun this transition are already reaping the rewards, the study finds.
“Our success is linked to the success of our coffee farmers and coffee producing landscapes. We knew that if we didn’t pursue a landscape approach, we’d compromise our success,” says Kelly Goodejohn, Director of Ethical Sourcing at Starbucks . “Working with global brands like Starbucks to promote sustainable development of the coffee sector at the landscape scale is critical to ensure the continued conservation of nature and the services it provides to agriculture and communities as demand for agricultural products grows and climate change stresses our planet’s limited resources,” says Bambi Semroc, Senior Director of Sustainable Food & Agriculture Markets for Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative co-organizer Conservation International.
An advisory group of some of the world’s leading companies and business organizations, including Nestlé , Unilever, Mars, Olam International, Rio Tinto, Starbucks, SABMiller , and the World Business Council on Sustainable Development helped shape the research questions and provided feedback on drafts. A scoping phase uncovered more than 25 examples of companies already employing landscape approaches to deal with sustainability challenges. From these, three in depth case studies were conducted with Starbucks ; Olam , a multinational agricultural supply chain management firm; and SABMiller, the world’s second largest brewer.
A portion of the SABMiller case in brief :
The company faced operational, reputational and regulatory risks related to water, largely brought on by climate change and changing land use in the area surrounding their Bogotá facility. As a result, it is looking “beyond the brewery ” to the landscape and community, to identify shared responsibilities to craft shared solutions. The right scale to address these risks was with local communities, stakeholders and businesses involved in the water catchment and ecosystem. SABMiller has alr eady found that water risks are significantly lower, while the required investment was far less than avoided costs. Coordinating these activities at the community level also resulted in $ 3 million (USD) in annual savings to the city of Bogotá in water treatment costs; savings that are passed on to water consumers like SABMiller.
“Companies who are investing in sustainable sourcing want to see that the investment is paying off, with positive outcomes for nature and the communities where they operate, and also, ideally, for their bottom line,” says study co-author Lee Gross, Project Manager at EcoAgriculture Partners. “This report shows them that landscape approaches can help them do both .”
A copy of the full report and case studies can be found at http://landscapes.ecoagriculture.org/ global_review/reducing_risk/