The new year is off to a fast start, but it appears that many companies have taken a step back from basing decisions solely on the bottom-line and have added social responsibility goals to their performance scorecards.
They’re becoming more attentive to “stakeholders” beyond just their investors and consumer base and have realized that becoming socially responsible is actually not just good for their corporate image but needed for global stability. Companies are incorporating measurable metrics and modifying their operating plans to get in the race towards a “Net Zero World.”
Depending on who you ask there are several definitions of a “Net Zero World” – the most common is predominantly affiliated with climate change and the preservation of a livable plant. It is generally agreed that achieving a balance between the amount of emissions (greenhouse gases/carbons) produced and those removed from the atmosphere to “net zero” will exponentially reduce global warming. Thus, preventing the worse impacts of climate change begins with becoming carbon neutral quickly. With a focus on building and transitioning to the decarbonization of energy systems, companies are beginning to operate with clean and secure energy sources which will lead to a “net zero” state.
The output of company resources must be measured to determine not only effectiveness in operations and benefit to stakeholders but also financial return on investment (ROI) to shareholders. We’re all realizing that achieving these goals is more of a marathon and less of a sprint given the global enormity of challenges posed to reach even the smallest measures of “net zero.” But the harmful effects of not running the race have negative implications to companies beyond the business model. The survival of the communities they serve is the greater risk given everyone’s dependency on the food supply. Protecting the global food supply then becomes a priority for every operating company – especially if a “net zero world” is to be achieved.
Changes in consumer behaviors have been predicting this business change for years – consumer attitudes are radically different from where they were 20 years ago, especially in fully industrialized nations like our own. Preferences for a healthier lifestyle and living in a clean and sustainable world have created the “Net Zero World” movement that dominates global media channels.
Many companies are taking notice, whether they’re directly consumer-facing or not, and are prioritizing resources to address their stakeholders’ desire for more socially responsible business practices. This particularly applies when it comes to the effects business has on natural resources, communities served, and the lifespan of loyal consumers. Addressing consumer education though is a priority in the decarbonization race.
The food industry has been running the “Net Zero World” marathon for several decades and has realized that it’s all connected to how we farm and produce our food. Getting to net zero criteria is not a solution based on a spreadsheet. The answer may be found in regenerative agriculture.
In fact, reaching net zero itself is actually dependent on modernized agricultural practices. The world of regenerative agriculture is centered in the art of land management – a dynamic system that involves climate, water, and energy – in addition to labor and beyond. Regenerative deals with the how natural resources of the land are leveraged in harmony with nature to produce sustainable, good quality food – the ultimate responsibility of the food industry.
However, regenerative agriculture is a term that does not yet have a standard definition – not from researchers, academics, or farmers. Consumers tell us they are confused and the absence of clarity prevents researchers from targeting what to study. This means agreed-upon policies and laws are slow to come. But the food industry is already stepping up in many instances.
More on that in Part Two of this article next month: Regenerative Agriculture Can Lead to a “Net Zero World”