Sustainable Food Lab and SAI Platform Launch Global Climate Project with Farmers

At least a dozen global food companies collaborate toward practical, cost effective solutions to reduce the climate impact of specific farming systems.

[social_buttons] I happen to be a fan of the Sustainable Food Lab, which is a group of businesses, NGOs and academic institutions working together to accelerate the shift toward sustainable agriculture.  I respect the group’s collaborative approach and believe it should be emulated across other sectors. As I heard someone say at Fortune’s recent Brainstorm Green conference, “Sustainability is a team sport.” Absolutely!

On that happy note, the Sustainable Food Lab (SFL) and the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform announced Wednesday the launch of a comprehensive global climate project to evaluate the greenhouse gas footprint of specific farming systems. The goal is to empower food companies to engage with farmers in their supply chain in an effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions and provide solutions needed to address the environmental impacts of farming.

So how will it all work? Over the next 12-18 months, the SFL staff will manage and use a combination of resources including available data, interviews with key stakeholders, and… wait for it… a newly created “Cool Farm Tool”. How cool is that? The tool is a greenhouse gas (GHG) calculator designed to estimate the current carbon footprint of each farming system, and it was developed by researchers at the University of Aberdeen in partnership with (another way of saying ‘funded by’) Unilever.

According to the SFL,

The project has already attracted the support of some of the largest and most influential organizations in the food and agriculture space including Unilever, PepsiCo, Heinz, Sysco, Pulse Canada, Oxfam and the Canada Canola Growers Association. Each organization will support the research by evaluating at least one or in some cases more than one farming system. These farming systems will consist of a diverse range of geographies including, the U.S., Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia as well as a wide variety of crops such as canning tomatoes, potatoes, dairy, beef, cotton, lettuce, mixed vegetables, pulses, tea and coffee.”

Most importantly, the project will take into account the farmers’ perspective and not just the needs of the big companies. The circumstances and challenges on individual fields and farms can vary greatly depending on soil, climate, management systems and input intensities. It is crucial for businesses to recognize and understand these differences in order to create real sustainable change.

Hopefully, with everyone working together, all of us will be able to enjoy the “shift of sustainable food from niche to mainstream”.

Follow Cindy Tickle on Twitter @ethicalbiz
Image Credit: hozae
via flickr under a CC license

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