Home » Food & Agriculture » How regenerative agriculture is essential to a more sustainable food system

Kieran Conroy

Country Manager, Nestlé Ireland

Regenerative agriculture is an approach to farming that encourages greater care of the soil, protects natural resources and enhances biodiversity.

With practices including crop rotation, reduced use of fertiliser and pesticides and restoration of woodland and hedgerows, farmers and communities are finding social and environmental benefits of regenerative agriculture, such as increased productivity and reduced flood risk. Nestlé is working closely with farmers across the world to support them to adopt regenerative agriculture practices that can create a more resilient and sustainable food system.

With more than 70% of the company’s greenhouse gas emissions coming from the production of ingredients, working with farmers is an essential step in reducing its environmental impact.

Country Manager at Nestlé Ireland, Kieran Conroy, says: “Regenerative agriculture is fundamental if we are to achieve a more sustainable food system that protects and restores the environment whilst also helping to improve farmer and community livelihoods.”

The food system today vs the food system of tomorrow

The food system we have today is a significant contributor to the climate crisis and is often at the centre of a number of environmental and societal challenges, but it also has a unique opportunity to be a significant part of the solution.

This is where action by companies like Nestlé are important. Conroy explains that “We take action at all stages across the value chain, right from the sourcing of the raw ingredients that make up our products, through manufacturing and distribution, to the way we package products and how consumers use and dispose of them.” He adds “It’s only by taking this end-to-end view that we can ensure our actions are making a difference.”

As one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies, the company has committed to sourcing 20% of ingredients through regenerative practices by 2025, and 50% by 2030, through a concept that looks at the landscape and the different ecosystems – biodiversity, water quality, carbon sequestration and flood risk mitigation – as a whole.

Regenerative agriculture in practice

Conroy explains that regenerative agriculture is important to tackle both the climate and nature crises and that it can play a critical role in ensuring food security, but it can only be achieved by working in collaboration with farmers. “It’s only by engaging and building trust with farmers that we are able to work together to implement a range of practices that work in harmony with nature. We won’t be able to meet our goals to source regeneratively produced ingredients and halve emissions by 2030 to reach net zero by 2050, without them.”

“At our Wyeth Nutrition facility in Limerick, 70% of conventional milk powder is sourced from locally approved suppliers, all of whom also have their own sustainability certification. For our internationally sourced ingredients such as cocoa and coffee we have robust sustainability plans, such as our Nestlé Cocoa Plan where we are the first confectionery company in Ireland to use 100% certified sustainable cocoa for all our confectionery brands,” adds Conroy.

We are committed to being a part of the solution to achieve a more sustainable food system.

But the company’s ambitions go beyond just its own supply chain and it is keen to work in partnership with other organisations operating in the same landscape to scale up these opportunities. One approach that supports this is Landscape Enterprise Networks (LENs), which connects different stakeholders who rely on and benefit from nature in the landscape, with land managers to create regional, self-governing, trading networks. LENs programmes aim to deliver a wide range of outcomes from improved water quality, flood defence, securing carbon and improving air quality, and have collaboration at their core.

“We are committed to being a part of the solution to achieve a more sustainable food system that is good for both people and planet. We have more work to do and we don’t have all the answers today but we know if we take action now and come together, we can get there faster,” concludes Conroy.

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