of cereals and grains traceable in 2019
Cereals and grains
Cereals and grains, and in particular wheat and corn, are an important raw material for us for a range of foods and beverages, including breakfast cereals, pasta and pizza. The cereals supply chain contains various challenges, especially for wheat. We work closely with Control Union, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and suppliers to map our supply chains and identify and address key challenges. One area of engagement is on good agricultural practices. Our main focus is on soil, with projects running in collaboration with Earthworm Foundation in France and with TNC in the US.
Our cereals and grains supply chain
Since adding cereals to our list of priority ingredients in 2016, our first objective has been getting visibility of the supply chain, focusing first on wheat and corn. We source cereals and grains from many countries around the world, in particular Argentina, Australia, Brazil, France, Mexico, Russia, the UK and the US. This is a complex task as cereals supply chains are long and involve different types of suppliers. We buy cereals from commodity traders (such as Cargill) as well as co-operatives, and they sometimes buy materials from other traders, which means they have little visibility of their supply chain. Nonetheless, we have made progress and are committed to holding our suppliers and ourselves accountable as well as driving industry-wide transparency.
Our approach to sourcing cereals and grains sustainably
We aim to ensure our supplies are sourced from suppliers where the operations, as well as the farms that supply them, comply with local laws and regulations and with the Nestlé Responsible Sourcing Standard (pdf, 2.4Mb).
Challenges identified include environmental, social and economic issues such as soil erosion, water quality degradation, loss of biodiversity and an aging farming population; there is also a lack of interest from younger generations to go into farming. We are taking the same approach as with other priority raw materials, with programs aimed at developing better agricultural practices and improving farmers’ livelihoods.
To hold our suppliers and ourselves accountable as well as driving industry-wide transparency, we have published the list of our Tier 1 suppliers (pdf, 0.3Mb)?and the list of our Tier 2 suppliers (pdf, 0.4Mb)?in our supply chain, along with the countries of origin.
Protecting valuable ecosystems in the US
Quality raw materials come from healthy farms. This starts with nature’s systems, including water, soil health and biodiversity, working in balance. We work hard to add value to agricultural lands in regions where we source crops, to complement the good work that farmers are already doing.
In the US, our pet food division Nestlé Purina is working with farmers, conservation groups, government agriculture agencies, university experts and other companies to improve that balance. In total, we contribute to six multi-stakeholder projects – on topics such as improving soil quality, irrigation and nutrient management in rivers – located in regions in the Midwestern US where our raw materials are sourced (see map below). Each of these projects contributes to improving the ecosystems on which agriculture relies by conserving and protecting the environment while supporting the local farming communities. The project will restore wetlands on 650 acres of river-edge land, which will encourage biodiversity, including water birds, amphibians and water-loving plants, as well as soaking up carbon and nutrients in the water.
Nutrient management on the Wabash River
The Wabash River, which flows through agricultural lands in Indiana and Illinois, contributes 1% of the water volume and 11% of the nutrients that flow into the Mississippi River. TNC, together with farmers, government conservation agencies and Nestlé Purina, is reconnecting the Wabash River with its floodplain at key junctures to slow the flow of the river and capture nutrients and sediment through installed wetlands and woodlands. This is resulting in cleaner water flowing into the Mississippi River. Based on a number of scientific studies, TNC estimates that 40% of the nutrients and sediment that flow through wetlands are removed before the cleaner water continues its journey downstream.
In 2019, TNC installed a US Geological Survey super gage in the Wabash River at New Harmony, which provides 24/7 water quality data, including information on nitrogen and phosphorus. See our video with more about this project.
Improving soil health in the US
Supported by cutting-edge soil laboratory analysis, moisture sensors and satellite technology, a Nestlé Purina-funded project is encouraging the use of better farming techniques. These include planting cover crops between the harvest and spring sowing, using conservation tillage practices and rotating different crops. These practices help the soil recover by enabling microbes, nutrients and carbon to build up, improving the soil health. This leads to benefits including better water retention, reduced runoff, improved resilience to extreme weather and increased yields.
Across the US Midwest, from where Nestlé Purina sources much of its ingredients, farms have produced bountiful yields of commodity crops for many years. However, as a result, the soil is becoming depleted. Better farming techniques can reverse this process. It is estimated that if 50% of US cropland used some form of soil regenerative technique, then 25 million tonnes of carbon could be sequestered in the soil each year. Three organizations – TNC, the Soil Health Partnership and the Soil Health Institute – are currently working together to support this goal.
The program is now helping thousands of farms across 40 million acres of land. Nestlé Purina has pledged USD 1 million (CHF 969?000)?over five years to help to fund TNC’s part of the effort, called reThink Soil, and we have produced a video to encourage farmers to adopt these practices.
Regenerating agriculture through living soil in France
Deterioration in soil quality can have an impact on sustainability, biodiversity and global warming. Nestlé has been working with Earthworm Foundation in France since 2018 to encourage innovative and practical approaches.
The Living Soils initiative aims to encourage regenerative agriculture and its benefits for farmland: in terms of water quality, the prevention of soil erosion and, most notably, carbon capture.
The Living Soils initiative has three objectives:
- Agree on a shared definition. We believe that it is necessary to formulate a ‘living soil’ definition to ensure that there is a procurement specification for soil, used by as many companies as possible, following previous examples (such as forests and deforestation).
- Technical and economic support for farmers. In the current economic context, farmers are unlikely to take the risk of trialing new methods. We aim to create solutions that reduce risk while incentivizing farmers to try regenerative soils, such as providing technical assistance and support groups. This approach was first piloted in Santerre, France, in 2018.?
- Compensate farmers for additional carbon storage in their soil. Currently, farmers lack sufficient financial motivation to transition to regenerative soil approaches. We are developing a methodology to compensate farmers for the carbon captured by their soil.
We believe that living soils are an instrumental solution to mitigate climate change. By working alongside Earthworm Foundation, we hope to engage farmers in our supply chains, supporting them as they reintroduce life into their soil.
Working toward net-zero emissions
Our recent climate pledge to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050 will also push us to seek new innovations to offset and inset our emissions through restoration, conservation and reforestation activities at the forest source with our palm oil suppliers.