March 20, 2017
The need to meet food demands for a growing population is now well known across local and regional communities, countries, businesses, and investors. Today, with colleagues from the responsible investing field and companies at the forefront of the agriculture sector, I will be speaking to help educate attendees from investment firms, civil society groups, and the media about the need to ensure sustainable practices within agriculture as it grows to meet demand.
By 2050 it is expected that 9 billion people will inhabit the earth. Finding ways to meet the food needs of a growing population will pose a number of challenges, particularly in developing countries where usable land, water, and other vital natural resources are scarce. The inherent link between climate change and agriculture will also be a key issue to address as the world looks for new and innovative ways to produce viable food options for an expanding population.
According to the Food and Agriculture Administration, we will need to produce 60% more food by 2050. It is imperative that we have an integrated and sustainable approach across the agricultural sectors – farming, forestry, and fisheries – to mitigate the negative environmental impacts of this needed agricultural yield.
At Green Century, our shareholder advocacy program has helped produce measurable results that are creating a more sustainable system for the cultivation and production of agricultural commodities and may potentially benefit the long-term performance of our investments.
Below is one of the highlights from our work that I will be sharing at the event regarding a pathway forward on sustainable agriculture. You can also learn more about our Forest Protection Campaign, which is working to address the link between agriculture, which is the largest contributor to deforestation, and impacts on the climate.
Globally, more than 14% of planet-warming emissions come from the keeping of cows, chickens, pigs and other animals. Beef requires 20 times more land and emits 20 times more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of edible protein than common plant-based protein sources such as beans, peas, and lentils. Given this information and the knowledge that protein consumption, in the U.S. and around the world continues to rise, our Shareholder Advocates were able to identify a new and unique area of opportunity to engage companies on an issue that is not only important in terms of environmental impact, but also accounts for market trends and consumer preferences.
Through our engagement with Tyson Foods* regarding the business risks associated with growing demand for plant-based protein, we were able to successfully withdraw our shareholder proposal after the company announced it had invested in a minority stake of 5% in the alternative meat producer, Beyond Meat.* Tyson also established a $150 million venture fund to invest in food startups focused on alternative proteins. As recently as March 7, 2017, Tyson CEO, Tom Hayes said, “If you take a look at the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) stats, protein consumption is growing around the world—and it continues to grow. It’s not just hot in the US; it’s hot everywhere, people want protein, so whether it’s animal-based protein or plant-based protein, they have an appetite for it. Plant-based protein is growing almost, at this point, a little faster than animal-based, so I think the migration may continue in that direction.”
The opportunity the investment and business communities have to address the environmental implications of a growing agriculture system are endless. I look forward to sharing Green Century’s work with conference attendees as well as the work that lies ahead regarding the establishment of a sustainable agriculture system across the globe.
*No securities mentioned were held in the portfolios of any of the Green Century Funds as of December 31, 2016. References to specific securities, which will change due to ongoing management of the Funds, should not be construed as a recommendation by the Funds, their administrator, or their distributor.
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