Engendering Regeneration for Supply Chains that Last
By Shelley Martin
In a decade marked by climate shocks, pandemia, and global interconnection, the call to #InvestInOurPlanet is top of mind for individuals and companies – not just for Earth Day but for the future of life and business as we know it. Food and beverage corporations sense the urgency to transition to more renewable sources for operations to continue and keep pace. Those at the forefront are promoting regenerative agriculture practices to secure long-term soil and watershed health. Others who ignore environmental sustainability in their supply chains override our planetary boundaries, borrowing prosperity from future generations at their own detriment. Climate resilience is essential for growers and buyers to feed 8 billion people by Earth Day 2023, and is a prerequisite for long-term feasibility of their supply chains.
Market teams are urgently pivoting amidst geopolitical complexities that jeopardize their security of supply, from Covid-driven supply chain interruptions to Ukraine-related price volatility for food and fertilizers. Perhaps socioeconomics, human rights, and cultural norms just aren’t perceived as material. And if people dynamics inside a company are complicated, who can begin to address the spectrum of gender and social issues within supplier communities? A just agricultural transition is too often an afterthought, with social sustainability a legacy child of CSR: nice to have, but immaterial to business.
As buyers already navigating financial and environmental factors, most food, beverage and ingredient companies taper off their interest in social impact and gender equity after a bit of philanthropy with women smallholders in a few test markets. Women’s Day celebrations and ads featuring an exceptional woman farmer are useful strategies. But more than consumer crumbs, true sustainability requires leaders who are unafraid to see and address the historical inequities that render women less commercially viable today. Agribusinesses are learning, on an accelerated track, how shortsighted “breadcrumbing” their social sustainability proves to be.