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Feeding the Future

The UN Global Compact Network Canada’s webinar series, “Raising Corporate Ambition for Environmental Sustainability: Canada’s Road to COP27”, is a new four-part series focused on strengthening the corporate commitment to environmental sustainability ahead of the United Nations’s Climate Change conference later this year. The first session, titled “Feeding the Future: The Challenges and Opportunities of Canada’s Agricultural Sector,” looked at the role of the agricultural industry and key stakeholders working to adapt to, finance and mitigate the effects of the climate emergency.

Daria Naglic, Senior Manager, Programmes & Business Relations at the UN Global Compact Network Canada, started the session by addressing the importance of agriculture and the need for global systems to evolve and adapt to meet the demands of a growing population, while mitigating the growing impacts of changing environmental and climatic conditions. The discussion then focused on the experiences and expertise of the panelists, highlighting how both businesses and governments are working to further develop Canada’s commitments to food and nutrition security, advance sustainable agriculture systems, and build on collective action and partnerships to meet the goals of the 2030 Agenda. This session’s expert panel featured Carlos Romero, PhD Sustainability Manager at Nutrien Ag Solutions; Robynne Anderson, President and CEO of Emerging Ag Inc; and Suzanna Ersoy, Deputy Director at the Sustainable Development Goals Unit, Employment and Social Development Canada.

As the largest provider of crop and input services in the world, Carlos Romero described Nutrien Ag Solutions as being in a unique position to be a key driver in sustainable crop production, which presents both tremendous business opportunity and tremendous responsibility. Nutrien has a very ambitious commitment to enable growers to adopt sustainable and productive agricultural products and practices on 75 million acres globally, with nature-positive solutions being critical to reaching this goal by 2030. In Western Canada, some sustainable practices Carlos Romero described include no till (a practice implemented as far back as the 90’s), pushing the presence of legumes in crop rotations, using biological products, and ultimately trying to be more productive with the same amount of land.

When thinking about the challenges farmers face with adapting to changing environmental conditions, Carlos Romero pointed out that farmers are only being paid by their yield. However, if society wants to see more changes in agricultural practices that contribute to environmental goals, society needs to start contributing to those changes somehow. Speaking from the perspective of SMEs, Robynne Anderson also agreed that the cost of transitioning can be particularly daunting. There is a next generation of agriculture that is highly focused on precision agriculture techniques and using data systems to maximize every input, and we should be rewarding farmers for that transition. Further, a primary challenge when talking about SMEs, Robynne Anderson noted that creating a feeling of empowerment and making farmers feel like they are part of the solution is still missing.

Suzanna Ersoy highlighted the importance of a whole-of -society and whole-of-government approach to the SDGs, which the SDG Unit enables through their work with other government departments, ministries, and networks with businesses. One of the biggest challenges, Suzanna Ersoy notes in establishing partnerships, is that people don’t know how to apply for support and funding, or don’t even know this organization exists. Thus, key objectives of the SDG Unit include further raising awareness, increasing engagement and partnership opportunities; improving access to knowledge on emerging SDG issues, and establishing new networks between organizations and sectors.

The session ended with panelists discussing what their companies and organizations are doing to advance food security and sustainable agriculture across Canada. Carlos Romero described Nutrien’s carbon program, which provides financial incentive to growers for accelerating climate-smart agriculture and soil sequestration, and is crucial in allowing farmers to maintain sustainable practices. Robynne Anderson discussed Emerging Ag Inc’s strong focus on global agricultural policy issues, with policy advocacy being necessary to support farmers now and in the future. Some of the policies she described as important in Canada include enhanced rural broadband and tax incentives. One of the roles of the SDG unit is to support progress and partnerships through the SDG Funding program, which Suzanna Ersoy stated has already funded 75 projects that align with food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture.

The second installment of the series, “Overcoming barriers: How Protecting Nature Can Future-Proof Business and Mitigate Climate Change”,will take place on August 18th from 3pm – 2pm. Learn more here.

31 July 2022

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