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The global food giant is working with a range of partners to increase its use of renewables, decrease emissions and tackle deforestation, according to its latest integrated annual report
Cargill has a high-profile sustainability agenda. Following President Trump’s decision to exit the Paris Agreement, Cargill chairman and CEO David MacLennan was quick to step up and declare the company’s continued commitment to address climate change in its global food and agriculture supply chains.
Headquartered in Minnesota, with 155,000 employees in 70 countries, the global food, agriculture and financial services group, which boasts revenues of $27.3bn (compared to $27.1bn the previous year), is one of the world’s largest, with extremely complex supply chains, including purchasing, storing and transporting crops, grain and other agricultural commodities; and manufacturing and processing of food ingredients and livestock feed.
The company’s integrated annual report re-affirms Cargill’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and its alignment with the SDGs, and shows that it is making good strides on its 2020 targets: greenhouse gas intensity, energy efficiency, freshwater efficiency and renewable energy.
Working with a range of partners, including the Nature Conservancy, the company has avoided 1 million metric tons of GHG emissions this year. It also puts its biomass to good use: in Southeast Asia palm fruit fibres and hulls power nearly all of its oil plantations and mills.
As one of the largest charterers of dry bulk and tanker shipping, sustainable ocean transportation is a major focus. Today, 98% of Cargill’s dry bulk fleet has received one of the five highest efficiency grades from RightShip, and the company this year supported the Carbon War Room’s efforts to decarbonise maritime industries.
Protecting farmers’ livelihoods is another key area. Cargill is a founding member of the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative and this year the collaborative helped fund 20 new demonstration farms to test practices to improve soil health.
Looking further ahead, eliminating deforestation in its supply chains is one of Cargill’s three 2030 goals (alongside increasing access to safe, nutritious food and providing training on sustainable agricultural practices for 10 million farmers). Following up on a dedicated report on forests at the start of this year, the annual report reveals that the company has mapped 166 million hectares worldwide to establish a baseline for measuring progress in eliminating deforestation from its supply chains.It also says that the company has trained 300 employees to evaluate and track implementation of Brazil’s Forest Code.
However, in March, a report by environmental NGO Mighty Earth suggested that Cargill was feeding its poultry with soy imported from areas that are undergoing deforestation. Cargill is one of the world’s largest buyers of soy, palm oil and other crops (supplying the likes of Tesco, McDonald’s and Morrisons). In 2006, Cargill signed up to the Amazon Soy Moratorium, a voluntary agreement between companies and environmental groups to limit deforestation. However, Mighty Earth alleges that Cargill (and others) have simply moved their soy sourcing to nearby areas not protected by the moratorium – a claim strongly denied by Cargill.
Jeff Malcolm, senior director of private sector engagement at World Wildlife Fund, believes that Cargill recognises the opportunity it has to help address major global challenges like deforestation. “However, much work remains to be done to ensure that corporate commitments like Cargill’s are implemented and have a measurable impact,” he says. “As one of the world’s largest agribusiness companies, Cargill should focus on fulfilling its commitment to remove deforestation from its supply chain and reducing the impact of food production.”
WWF is one of numerous NGOs that work with Cargill. It has helped transform its supply chain towards greater sustainability, focusing on achieving the company’s commitments on deforestation, aquaculture and paper products. The annual report mentions how, this year, Cargill has worked with WWF to develop a policy and practices to ensure that 100% of the fibre-based packaging products it sources will be Forest Stewardship Council certified or recycled by 2025.
Tackling deforestation is also a large part of Cargill’s Cocoa Promise (CCP). Last month the company released its third report on the progress of the CCP, an initiative launched five years ago to set a framework for cocoa sustainability in five countries. The CCP has so far supported more than 145,000 farmers worldwide, providing them with market access, training and resources, and Cargill has just established some new 2030 goals aligned with the SDGs.
The CCP report focuses on progress in the areas of direct sourcing, limiting deforestation, improving traceability and building up the socioeconomic resilience of farmers and their wider communities. It explains how, using GPS technology, Cargill conducted a risk assessment of 2.3m hectares of forest to evaluate habitat type and tree cover loss as part of its global efforts to eliminate deforestation across agricultural supply chains by 2030.
It also underlines the company’s commitment to eliminate all forms of child labour in the cocoa supply chain and explains how technology is driving progress in many areas. For example, in Ghana 25,000 farmers have signed up to a scheme that allows Cargill to tag and track each bag of cocoa beans it buys back to the farmer. At the point of delivery, farmers are immediately paid via mobile money accounts.
The sheer scale of Cargill’s operations means that making food and agriculture more sustainable is a complex, ever-evolving challenge. Overcoming the challenge requires the involvement of a large network of diverse stakeholders, including governments, NGOs and other companies, so a company of this size is uniquely placed to leverage its global network. As the annual report shows, Cargill’s key areas of focus are those where its size and market presence can make a significant impact.Cargill deforestation climate renewables cocoa Soy beef WWF sustainable shipping Nature Conservancy