Seven Trends in Sustainability Funding
Apr 14, 2015
Last summer my intern and I collaborated on a report called “Prosperity Consulting’s 7 Top Trends in Food and Ag Sustainability and the Funders that Love Them”. I realize this title sounds a bit like an episode of a talk show! But, it’s unquestionably true; trends follow the money.
In thinking about this blog, I recently pulled the report out and reviewed it (feel free to email for a copy) because I thought updating this little match up would be a fun topic for blogging. So over the next seven weeks, you’ll see each trend explored with an example of the trend in action and matched up with a federal or foundation trend in funding that I believe has followed it or been triggered by it. Here’s a quick recap of the 7 trends:
Trend 1: Sustainable Water Management Practices
Trend 2: Technology and Big Data
Trend 3: Corporate Responsibility: Animal Welfare, Organics, and Sourcing
Trend 4: Energy: Reduction, Conservation, and Generation
Trend 5: Waste Reduction and Sustainable Packaging
Trend 6: Sustainability Reporting, Organizations, and Indices
Trend 7: Government Programs and Actions
For Trend 1- Sustainable Water Management Practices, enter food giant, ConAgra Foods. Take a read of this small snapshot, finely compiled by my intern, Nick Posawatz.
Sustainability Snapshot – ConAgra Foods
ConAgra Foods depends on water for nearly every point along the food production supply chain. From the irrigation used on farms, the cleaning and washing foods, or the water used in the factory production process, ConAgra uses an extensive amount of water. ConAgra Foods’ Sustainable Agriculture Program is heavily focused on water management and conservation, and places emphasis on key indicators such as water withdrawal source, water discharge destination, and water use per pound of product. To most effectively manage their overall water use, ConAgra has used the Global Water Tool developed by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). This tool has helped them develop a water scarcity map to show which processing centers and farms are located in water abundant and water stressed areas. ConAgra Foods has also worked extensively with farmers, using analytics and data management to quantify water savings and recycling opportunities.
Water, an enormous topic, yet one that from a grant standpoint hasn’t received near the funding as some of the other areas you’ll read about in future posts (just wait until we cover renewables). Most of the funding I’ve seen is directed at rural water improvement grants/loans in rural housing, such as the $352 million USDA announced for that purpose last October under the Water and Environmental Program. USDA has long had programs that many farmers are familiar with including EQUIP to handle location-based water management, but that funding is small-scale in most cases. Foundations are making big plays for water sustainability internationally. The Chronicle of Philanthropy named water as one if it’s top trends for giving in 2015. With this trend, money is flowing freely, though not directed at the farm gate for water management just yet.
Up next week, stay tuned for a discussion of funding around the topic of big data. I welcome your comments and ideas! Please feel free to engage.