By Kristen Ressor
DES MOINES, Iowa —New partnerships need to be developed to handle international hunger issues, but climate change needs to be tackled first, according to Judy Beals, director, private sector department, at Oxfam America.
Oxfam, a nonprofit that aims to create solutions to poverty, injustice and hunger, created the Behind the Brands campaign to change how food companies do business in regards to sustainability. Oxfam scored the world’s ten largest food and beverage companies based on their social and environmental policies. Kellogg Company scored poorly but has since implemented target goals and created partnerships to help smallholder farmers and to combat climate change.
“To solve hunger, we have to solve climate change,” Beals said.
Climate change has caused erratic weather conditions and more intense natural disasters that affect crop yields across the world, and leaders fighting to end world hunger believe nonprofit organizations, food corporations, national governments and everyday people all have a role to play to alliviate the issue.
Diane Holdorf, vice president and chief sustainability officer at Kellogg Co., said climate change causes business problems. One such instance was when an entire rice crop failed in Australia, which reduced the company’s ability to make Rice Krispies for that area.
“That was nothing,” she said, “compared to the challenges that were faced by the farmers whose own crops were failing.” She also explained how Kellogg Co. works with countries and farmers to understand how it can help.
In Thailand, farmers typically grow long-grain rice because the medium-grain doesn’t grow well in the area. Since Kellogg Co. uses medium-grain rice to make Rice Krispies, the company partnered with the International Rice Research Institute and the government of Thailand to breed a medium-grain rice that would successfully grow in the country. Both parties benefited from the partnership: Kellogg Co. got a reliable source of rice for its products and the Thailand rice farmers gained a reliable buyer, among other selling options.
In Bangladesh, Kellogg helped to fund cold storage facilities to reduce post-harvest losses, and collaborated with non-governmental organizations to teach the farmers better agricultural methods, which increased the farmers’ yields by 35 percent, Holdorf said.
Kellogg has made a long-term goal at the Paris Climate Conference to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent by 2050. The company doesn’t know how it will achieve the goal yet, Holdorf said, as it may involve technology not yet created.
“It is rare for business to think out to 2050,” Holdorf said. “We needed to send a signal that we were really behind the governments.”
Beals said all companies should be doing more work to combat climate change. Once a few businesses implement science-based practices for sustainability, Beals said, many more may create their own food security goals and remain profitable.
This story is published in collaboration with the University of Missouri. Read more about their reporting project at the World Food Prize here.