Sustainability: Not A Four-Letter Word

Sustainability seems like the agricultural community’s newest buzzword, and in some circles, it takes on a negative connotation associated with high costs and little return. However, sustainability brings with it promising growth opportunities for agribusinesses positioned throughout the value chain.

“Sustainability in some businesses is a bad word,” says Mike Boehlje, professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University. “We’ve got to start thinking positively about the issue, and follow the lead of companies that are accepting sustainability as a business opportunity, rather than simply something they have to do.”

Many leaders throughout the agriculture industry have recognized that sustainability isn’t just a fad and are exploring how sustainable practices align with their business strategies and future industry demands. For example, a group of input supply companies, producers, processors and food and retail companies are working together on a project called Field to Market: The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. One of the group’s main goals is to create a set of indicators that will measure the environmental, health and socio-economic outcomes of agriculture.

“Field to Market focuses on the performance of sustainable agriculture, not the process,” Boehlje says. “The metrics they create will help companies measure the various environmental and financial impacts of their sustainability practices.”

Armed with the tools needed to measure sustainable agriculture’s return on investment, agribusiness managers can more easily evaluate projects that are under consideration. They will feel more confident in the decision-making process and have the ability to select projects that will deliver the most value to both the company and its customers.

Consider The Customer

Companies at each level of the supply chain can create value through sustainability. But companies will need to approach sustainability differently depending on the customers they serve.

If the business focuses on customers who are concerned about sustainability, managers can incorporate their practices into marketing, sales, and promotion campaigns in order to attract environmentally conscious consumers.

“Consumers are asking questions about sustainability, and there is evidence that some of them are willing to pay a premium for products that have more sustainable features,” Boehlje says.

Businesses not selling directly to consumers should focus on how sustainability features and practices can benefit their value chain partners. Growers may not be willing to pay more for a sustainable product, so managers will need to communicate how their product can improve the farmer’s business by either lowering cost, improving productivity and/or increasing efficiency.

In the future, sustainability concerns will be driven increasingly by value chain partners, rather than by government regulation, according to Boehlje. Many food and retail companies are asking their supply chain partners for information about the environmental impact of their products—documentation about the processes the products go through and about the chemicals used therein. If suppliers ask for information, what can the agribusinesses do to give it to them? Boehlje suggests keeping an eye out for opportunities for joint ventures with other firms throughout the supply chain—the increasing importance of sustainability may offer opportunities for competitive advantage.

Leave a Reply

Latest News
ManagementUpdates on Glyphosate Use in the EU and Bayer/Monsanto
June 29, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss the latest important developments on these crop protection fronts. Read More
Industry NewsCompass Minerals Names Protassium+ Sales Director
June 28, 2016
Compass Minerals, the producer of Protassium+ sulfate of potash, has named Scott Johnson director of sales for Protassium+ North America. Read More
Eric SfiligojThe British Leave Vote Impact On EU Agriculture
June 27, 2016
Like virtually everyone else in the world this past week, I’ve watched the global reaction to Britain’s vote to exit Read More
Valent David Nothmann
Crop InputsValent Names David Nothmann Vice President Of Marketing
June 27, 2016
Valent U.S.A. Corp. has announced the appointment of David Nothmann as vice president of marketing. Nothmann will be responsible for Read More
The Andersons Waterloo
ManagementFirst Indiana Facility Certified Under 4R Nutrient Stew…
June 27, 2016
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that The Andersons, Inc.’s Waterloo, IN, facility has been added to its Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Contributes To Mayo Clinic
June 27, 2016
BRANDT, a leading agriculture retailer and manufacturer of specialty agriculture products, has pledged a sizable donation to the Mayo Clinic Read More
ManagementReport: U.S. Farmland Values On Average Continue Gradua…
June 27, 2016
Land price movement has been in the forefront for farmers, landowners, lenders and land brokers for a decade now during Read More
AdjuvantsPrecision Laboratories Introduces Intact Xtra For Use W…
June 27, 2016
Precision Laboratories announces the launch of Intact Xtra, an adjuvant designed for applicators who want to maximize spray applications and Read More
Key Cooperative’s new liquid fertilizer, crop chemical, and seed facility in Grinnell, IA stores 1.5 million gallons of liquid fertilizer and 120,000 gallons of crop chemicals.
Retail FacilitiesKey Cooperative Facility Features The Latest In Murray …
June 27, 2016
When Key Cooperative wanted to improve the overall efficiency at its new state-of-the-art facility in Grinnell, IA, it turned to Read More
Allen Summers Asmark Institute PSM Training
EmployeesAsmark Institute Sponsors 25 ResponsibleAg Auditor Trai…
June 21, 2016
The Asmark Institute has announced plans to provide 25 scholarships through their affiliated State fertilizer and agrichemical associations to help encourage Read More
Kennebec Elevator
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Celebrates Kennebec Elevator Grand Openin…
June 21, 2016
Over 250 patrons and guests were on hand to celebrate Wheat Growers’ Kennebec Elevator grand opening. South Dakota Secretary of Read More
Land O Lakes
Industry NewsLand O’Lakes To Acquire Ceres
June 20, 2016
Land O’ Lakes, Inc. and Ceres, Inc. have announced that they have signed a definitive merger agreement under which Land O’Lakes Read More
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To …
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
LegislationVilsack Christens WinField Crop Adventure, Talks Monsan…
June 17, 2016
The WinField Crop Adventure grand opening ceremonies at Fair Oaks Farms (near Winemac, IN) welcomed USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Read More
Crop InputsFields of the Future: WinField Doubles Down with Agri-E…
June 16, 2016
Land O’Lakes, Inc., joined by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, today will host Fields of the Future, a live broadcast about Read More
Bayer sign
Crop InputsMonsanto Turns Back Bayer Again
June 14, 2016
Bayer AG’s bid to buy Monsanto Co. for more than $60 billion has hit an impasse that could pose a Read More
Young Corn Field
Crop NutritionNext Generation Of Nitrogen Efficiency Technology Conve…
June 13, 2016
Commodity price projections indicate farmers will continue to face tight margins again this year. Delivering higher yields and more bushels Read More