Climate change is an enormous challenge, and solving it will take unprecedented collaboration across many sectors.
Fortunately, a growing global coalition is coming together to promote practical, innovative solutions to move the world toward a low-carbon future that is cleaner, healthier and more secure.
From the historic US-China climate agreement to the Pope's encyclical, it's clear that the world is getting serious about climate. It's also encouraging to see more and more actions being taken by the private sector, which can play an important role in creating and scaling up innovative solutions.
As we approach this December's UN negotiations in Paris, all eyes will be on government leaders as they hammer out a new global deal to address climate change. But companies are no longer sitting on the sidelines—they are leading, too. Last fall, for example, more than 100 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies attended the U.N. Climate Summit in New York City. At the Summit, 40 companies committed to zero net deforestation by 2030, and a dozen committed to fully meeting their energy needs with clean power by 2020.
What's more, companies are also looking beyond their own operations.
Take General Mills, for example. The company last month announced it will reduce its carbon emissions 28% percent by 2025. While many companies have set carbon emissions goals, General Mills has taken the impressive step of ensuring reductions cover the entire life cycle of its products.
Because the company’s own operations account for just a small portion of its total emissions—nearly two-thirds of the company's greenhouse gas emissions occur upstream in the agricultural sector— General Mills is pursuing change across its entire value chain. That means collaborating with stakeholders from farmers and suppliers to NGOs and consumers to encourage low-carbon practices.
My organization, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), is proud to help General Mills meet its ambitious emissions reduction goal. One way we are doing this is through our work together on Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, a coalition of farmers, NGOs, companies and universities working across the entire U.S. agriculture supply chain. The group aims to solve the challenges of producing enough food – while conserving nature – to sustain future generations.
Alliances like Field to Market will be key to helping companies implement their climate commitments. In this case, the coalition provides tools and resources for growers and supply chain managers to track and improve sustainability at the farm level. For example, the Alliance's Fieldprint Calculator shows growers how changing their practices can improve environmental outcomes including water consumption, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions—as well as their bottom lines. The group is also working to meet regional conservation goals that not only reduce greenhouse gases but also improve soil and water health.
General Mills’ ambitious climate goal shows it understands what many companies are realizing – fighting climate change is good for business. It can help protect supply chains, maintain global food security and keep our families and businesses safe.
Neither TNC nor General Mills can move the needle on the climate challenge on its own. But working together, we have a tremendous opportunity to make meaningful progress.