The Switzerland-based food giant Nestlé—whose U.S. headquarters in Arlington, Virginia are just a mile or so from where REVITALIZATION is published—is laying out its plans to support and accelerate the transition to a regenerative food system…one that aims to protect and restore the environment, improve the livelihoods of farmers, and help revitalize farming communities.
Nestlé will work with its food system partners, including the company’s network of more than 500,000 farmers and 150,000 suppliers, to advance regenerative farming practices at the heart of the food system – a term that encompasses every actor, activity, process, and product in growing, raising, making, delivering, and consuming food.
On September 16, 2021, they announced that—as part of this journey—the company will also initiate $1.3 billion worth of new programs to help address the social and economic challenges of the transition.
The announcement is being made in the lead up to the UN Food Systems Summit in New York City, as part of Nestlé’s contribution to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. It also follows the recent report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that shows the climate crisis is intensifying.
“We know that regenerative agriculture plays a critical role in improving soil health, restoring water cycles and increasing biodiversity for the long term,” said Paul Bulcke, Chairman of Nestlé. “These outcomes form the foundation of sustainable food production and, crucially, also contribute to achieving our ambitious climate targets.”
Nestlé is a signatory of the UN Business Ambition for 1.5°C pledge and was one of the first companies to share its detailed, time-bound climate plan in December 2020. The company is taking measures to halve its emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050.
“With our long-standing partnerships with farming communities globally, we want to increase our support for farming practices that are good for the environment and good for people,” said Mark Schneider, Nestlé CEO. “In the spirit of enabling a just transition it is vital that we support farmers around the world that take on the risks and costs associated with the move towards regenerative agriculture.”
Nestlé is investing CHF 1.2 billion (USD 1.3 billion) over the next five years to spark regenerative agriculture across the company’s supply chain, using three primary levers to help farmers adopt regenerative practices:
- Apply state-of-the-art science and technology, provide technical assistance: Leveraging its vast network of R&D experts and agronomists, Nestlé is, for example, developing higher-yielding coffee and cocoa varieties with lower environmental impact and assessing novel solutions to reduce emissions in the dairy supply chain. Nestlé will also offer agricultural training and help farmers exchange information and best practices that can be adapted locally.
- Offer investment support: The transition to regenerative agriculture comes with initial risks and new costs. Nestlé will support farmers by co-investing with them, facilitating lending or helping them obtain loans for specific equipment. The company will also work with partners to fund pilot projects to test and learn how best to advance regenerative agriculture.
- Pay premiums for regenerative agriculture goods: Nestlé will offer premiums for many raw materials produced using regenerative agriculture practices and buy bigger quantities. This means rewarding farmers not only for the quantity and quality of ingredients, but also for the benefits they provide to the environment through soil protection, water management and carbon sequestration.
Nestlé has just published the most important regenerative farming practices that the company wants to promote. They include, among others, enhancement of biodiversity, soil conservation, regeneration of water cycles and integration of livestock. Agriculture accounts for nearly two-thirds of Nestlé’s total greenhouse gas emissions, with dairy and livestock making up about half of that.
In dairy, for example, Nestlé is assessing cutting-edge science and technology to reduce emissions at farm level. The company will start working with 30 reference dairy farms in 12 countries to test scalable, climate-friendly, and regenerative agricultural practices that help achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions. Nestlé is also working with farmers to select and cultivate nutritious and tasty pulse varieties to be used as milk alternatives. More information about Nestlé’s approach is available online.
One example of collaborating with farmers in the Middle East and North Africa is Nestlé’s sourcing of more than 60,000 tons of raw milk per year directly from more than 6,000 small farms of various sizes in Morocco. The “Model Village” milk collection program helps farmers and future generations of farmers enhance safety, quality, quantity, breeding practices, water conservation, and environmental practices through technical and competencies training. For example, Nestlé will help farmers improve manure management by building biogas stations that reduce CO2 emissions and provide biogas for domestic use. Solar energy will also be introduced to all milk collection centers by 2023.
Regenerative agriculture contributes to a regenerative food system, which should be fair and transparent for all participants. Nestlé says it is committed to supporting improved and diversified farmer incomes through its sustainability programs. Furthermore, Nestlé will implement new living income programs for farmers in its value chain to make farming more attractive. Later this year, Nestlé will unveil specific plans for its coffee and cocoa supply chains.
To support young people who are passionate about farming, Nestlé is launching a new training platform in November to attract and train the next generation of farmers. The training will focus on regenerative agriculture practices and improving the resilience of farms to climate change for more than 40,000 farmers participating in one of their agripreneurship programs.
Nestlé’s regeneration efforts are launching under the umbrella title of “Generation Regeneration” focused on farmers, youth, consumers and its own employees.
All images courtesy of Nestle.