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How Cargill Believes Diverse Minds are Helping us Tackle the Sectors Biggest Sustainability Issues

The WFA campaign is supporting the work of our industry partners to create a more sustainable food and agriculture sector. New solutions are being developed across the world by the industry’s brightest minds, and through speaking with them we can highlight the variety of work being completed in this area.

We sat down with Heather Tansey, Sustainability Director for Cargill’s animal nutrition and protein & salt businesses to gain her views on some of animal agriculture’s biggest current sustainability challenges and how diverse voices can play a role in addressing the challenges and shaping the future of the industry.

Heather started by explaining that as the global population rises, this means it is more important than ever that we develop strategies to feed the growing world sustainably.  “Some of the most pressing challenges we face include climate change, water scarcity and quality, reducing the impacts of agricultural land use, and ensuring strong human rights and farmer livelihoods.”

For Heather, climate change is one of the most pressing sustainability challenges faced by the industry today, in part because of the effects it has on our collective attempts to feed the planet. “A changing climate causes challenges for agriculture as it leads to more extreme weather events, more frequent droughts, and increasing temperature stress for livestock and more,” she explained. “Fortunately, the agriculture sector is working to reduce emissions across supply chains and build climate resilience in agriculture.”

So where does ensuring a diverse and inclusive workforce come in solving these issues? “We know this is a huge issue for us to address, and efforts to solve sustainability challenges can benefit from more diverse voices in the industry,” Heather told us. “Diverse perspectives are required to build lasting solutions to global sustainability challenges, solutions that will resonate and work across the globe for smallholder farmers in developing countries through larger operations in the developed world. We need to lean into innovative thinking and new approaches, listening to stakeholders from diverse backgrounds if we are going to identify, elevate, and scale practices that enable the industry to meet its sustainability goals.”

Although she is inspired by the innovation, she sees in the agriculture sector already, Heather further highlighted the value of diversity to the industry by explaining: “As more diverse voices enter the industry that progress can be accelerated, learning from each other and scaling best practices. I am eager to see the growing focus by industry leaders, taking issues like gender inequality more seriously and being more inclusive. Cargill is taking active steps to achieve gender parity by 2030, to advance underrepresented groups into leadership roles and to directly address anti-Black racism in the United States and Brazil.”

We asked what Cargill doing to support the industry-wide efforts to tackle some of these environmental issues. Heather explained that Cargill believes that the time to act on climate change is now. “Since the end of 2019, Cargill has installed around US$3 million worth of energy-saving equipment. The company is also a strategic partner of ZeroNorth, BAR Technologies and others to offset emissions. Recently, it also implemented various carbon initiatives, including aqua nutrition and methane reduction programs.”

In addition, it is accelerating and bringing more innovative and greener approaches to the animal agriculture sector. “We have set a science-based target to reduce 30 % of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per pound of product in our supply chains by 2030. Cargill is working at the intersection of sustainability, food security and nutrition to find practical and scalable solutions such as sails onto our ocean transport cargo ships to reduce fuel use, and partnering with customers and suppliers to build more sustainable supply chains.”

When it comes to Cargill’s work in supply chains, Heather is particularly proud of the BeefUp and SeaFurther sustainability initiatives. “Cargill believes beef can be a force for good – a force to address the urgency of climate change and to build a stronger, more resilient world. That’s what led them to create their BeefUp effort where we work in partnership with farmers and ranchers to scale practices to reduce the carbon footprint of beef by reducing food waste, implementing more regenerative agricultural practices in the growing of feed, encouraging more sustainable grazing practices that enhance conditions for wildlife and improve soils, and accelerating in innovation that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Through SeaFurther Sustainability, they are partnering with their aquaculture customers to reduce the footprint of farmed fish through more sustainable raw materials, enhancing fish health, and improving feed productivity.”

In her role leading environmental sustainability for Cargill, Heather sees herself advancing sustainability issues within the industry by being laser-focused on ensuring Cargill delivers on its environmental commitments. “These commitments include greenhouse gas emissions reduction, transforming supply chains to be deforestation-free, achieving sustainable water management in 100% of priority watersheds, and accelerating regenerative agricultural practices across the supply chains to enhance soil health and sequester carbon by 2030.”

She acknowledged that Cargill is not able to achieve these goals alone explaining, “I am looking forward to working across supply chains, with suppliers, NGOs, customers, peers and even competitors to learn from each other and scale pragmatic solutions. Sustainability is a team sport. We will need to pull together as an industry to advance the change that we want to see.”

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