Environmental sustainability: It’s a topic that’s taken center stage in all aspects of our world—from farm to fork. As consumers gain more interest and ownership over the food they eat, the entire food chain is responding to answer questions and engage to build greater understanding of modern farming and food production practices.
We have been proactive as a farmer-owned cooperative with a unique viewpoint in sharing our collective sustainability story, a story guided by our long-standing cooperative values. Over the past few years, we also have brought a more intentional focus to capturing metrics from our member owners’ operations that reinforce our membership’s commitment to sustainability.
“We’ve recently begun a dialogue with membership, whether at Annual Meeting or member meetings in the country, about how environmental sustainability is becoming a greater focus with our customers and the end-consumer. As part of those interactions, we’ve emphasized the importance of partnering with our member-owners to gather their sustainability data and use it collectively to drive insights. These data points and practices provide the means for us to tell a more complete and accurate story and to continue to have a voice in the conversations that will shape our future,” says Leah Anderson, vice president of member relations.
To this point, we’ve been in the early stages of our data-driven journey. When Land O’Lakes engages industry groups and key industry influencers, today, we are able to say:
- 35% of our milk supply is assessed for environmental footprint through the Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN Dairy Platform
- 30 of our ag retailers are trained to deliver the Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN Agronomy Platform, encompassing 500,000 acres tracked to date
“The steps we have taken and the results we can share get us a seat the table where decisions are being made around supply,” says Matt Carstens, senior vice president of Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN. “The conversation is evolving quickly. We’re confident we are doing and measuring the right things, and we need to keep building on this strong foundation.”
Commitments for 2025
Setting public sustainability goals is increasingly common for suppliers as the consumer demands transparent commitments from the companies who provide their food. Across the food industry, major producers and retailers have been more aggressive in asking suppliers for measurable, shareable sustainability commitments.
As a part of our continuing journey, on April 19, we made our first public sustainability commitment to Walmart. Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN joined five other Walmart suppliers onstage during the retailer’s sustainability summit. Our commitment is to:
- Assess 100 percent of its farmer member-milk supply, focused on continuous improvement of enteric emissions and yield, including high greenhouse gas emissions manure systems, through the Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN Dairy Platform by 2025.
- Secure 20 million acres on the Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN Agronomy Platform to continuously improve fertilizer optimization, soil health and water management by 2025.
With these commitments, our target is to reduce 10M metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.
“Through Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, our partnership with our member-owners, and our ongoing leadership with some of the world’s largest food producers, including Walmart, our cooperative is in a position to achieve meaningful goals and shape the future of environmental sustainability,” Matt says.
Our next steps
Land O'Lakes’ 2025 commitment doesn’t change the current path for member-owners.
“Our early efforts around on-farm dairy sustainability assessments, for example, have produced great initial results of one third of our milk supply being assessed. While that’s great progress, we still have more work to do. We’ll be continuing to reach out to members and encouraging them to begin the sustainability assessment process,” says Leah.
Land O’Lakes’ public commitment reinforces the path we have been on and clarifies the goal for all stakeholders.
“Publically stating our goals increases our credibility and ensures a place for us in leading the conversation on this topic,” says Leah. “To our members, the public statement reinforces that we will continue to focus on environmental sustainability and take action to strengthen our leadership position through data-driven proof points. This is all a part of working effectively on behalf of all of our member-owners and the businesses we are sustaining together.”