What words and metrics best convey climate smart agriculture (CSA) to whom?
By Amy Braun, Global Sustainability Director, Kellogg Company, from an interview by Hal Hamilton and Frank Hicks
How do you talk about CSA and sustainability?
Remember when everyone used to ask, what is sustainability? It’s the same now with ‘climate- smart agriculture’ (CSA). This phrase has caught on among global leadership: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) network of ‘green revolution’ research institutes, and many global donors.
Most farmers were pursuing sustainable agriculture long before CSA became a hot topic. Are sustainability and climate smart the same or different? My sense is that they are pretty much the same, with CSA adding additional emphasis on resilience to changing weather. Many people are talking about the same thing but with different words. We could connect normal conservation practices to CSA and water. Some players criticize CSA for not including water more explicitly, but of course water use and availability are critical to all agricultural regions and their resilience to climate change.
How do you talk about CSA in a way that increases the impact of your message in different markets?
We need to translate CSA principles, using language that is familiar for each audience. I find it important to choose words carefully. I like using the word resilience when I talk about CSA, although climate change mitigation is important for certain commodities and regions. Soil health resonates in developed markets, where I use it as a proxy for sustainability. It’s less of a draw in emerging markets where there is so much focus on productivity, including access to inputs, efficiency, varieties and training in best agricultural practices.
How can we link supply chain CSA initiatives with broader goals?
I would like to see someone correlate the goals of supply chain projects with the goals of various platforms including Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform, Field to Market, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). The sustainability and climate goals of projects and platforms could be better aligned with mutual recognition. I wonder how we could do this so that everyone would use similar language, and perhaps make more visible the strengths of the different programs. Kellogg is a member of all of them.
We also need better metrics to assess progress. Where national or regional data is available, we can compare project results with larger scale benchmarks. We need to encourage governments to do data analysis; the USDA is exemplary.
Kellogg’s basic grower survey includes 3 questions related to CSA:
- Do you believe that you face weather-related risks?
- Are you doing anything to address those risks?
- Are you making new investments because of those risks?
All of this is critically important if we want to see progress. We are very willing to work with other companies including competitors. Please reach out to me directly to start the conversation.
What is the best way to communicate CSA principles to a business audience?
I would like to see one-pagers instead of merely scientific documents that educate on resilience. Soil is a good starting place to demonstrate HOW to get to resilience, which is the GOAL. The concept of resilience also includes farming methods, landscape issues, food security, and food waste. Simple communications about resilience should be unbranded and owned by all the multi-stakeholder initiatives.
Amy is a Global Sustainability Director at Kellogg Company. She is also a strategic advisor to the USAID funded Learning Community for Climate Smart Agriculture and a leading member of the WBCSD’s CSA working group that has published a road map to action at the Paris COP 2015.