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The signals indicating what’s next for sustainability programs

 

Talking about sustainability is nothing new. The noise, momentum, and even anxiety around the topic have many working in agribusiness curious about how much of the hype mirrors the action. Allison Nepveux, Carbon Business Development Lead at Bayer, spoke at the 2023 Bushel Buddy Seat on how the sustainability market has evolved over the past year. 

To level-set, Nepveux referred to the 1987 United Nations Brundland definition of sustainability: “meet the needs of the present without detracting from the opportunities of the future.”

“We’ve been hearing these things for a very long time. The challenge is that something like that definition is super vague and not helpful for designing effective programs,” Nepveux said. “What shifted in 2020 was that it wasn’t just government-led. It’s now companies, pushed by their investors and shareholders, who are now benchmarking and trying to drive down their environmental costs.”

From the government side, in 2022 the USDA offered the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program, awarding more than $3 billion to finance partnerships to support the production and marketing of climate-smart commodities via a set of pilot projects lasting one to five years. 

The most recent government initiative is Section 45z, a set of tax credits from the Inflation Reduction Act. These tax credits apply to all renewal fuel energies and could mean a range of $0.20 a gallon for ethanol and biodiesel and $0.35 a gallon for sustainable aviation fuels, multiplied by emissions factors. The question remains as to how this will be implemented and if the tax credits will recognize the role that farmers and on-farm changes play in achieving a lower carbon fuel.

Nepveux talked about how the combination of significant government initiatives paired with corporation and investment standards is shifting the wave of momentum. Nepveux said three things are coming out of this next phase of sustainability programs: 

  1. Agriculture has a role to play in sustainability efforts
  2. The market incentives have to be there – farmers and agribusinesses need to get paid
  3. There are specific practices that really matter (and the measurement mechanisms to track them)

Nepvuex referenced a Bushel project that was able to streamline on-farm data collection with Bayer’s Climate FieldView™ application and connect it with delivery and transportation data captured from the more than 60,000 active users of Bushel’s platform. It shows that the ability to track and measure this data is now available.  

And while Nepveux shared widely-circulated studies that point to a consumer willingness to pay, she countered that going after premium segments is missing the point. For businesses, it is more about fulfilling expectations of how to do business to even hold onto market share. “This is a license-to-operate issue. It is here. It is happening, and if we don’t start running, we’re going to get trampled,” Nepveux said.

Watch the full presentation here. For more information on how Bushel can help you with your sustainability initiatives, please visit bushelpowered.com/sustainability   

Click here for more updates and information from Bushel’s Buddy Seat.

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