Staying Grounded on Carbon Programs

When I was in the throes of the heavy lifting we did putting the Tech Hub LIVE conference program together with our Advisory Board, many topical areas of focus arose from our discussions. One in particular that came up was carbon programs and the impact on retail.

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While I understand that carbon sequestration could very well shape our approach to data, our interactions with farmers, and who we partner with sometime in the future, it’s not a topic I was interested in burning a lot of fuel trying to cover.

Ultimately, we opted to have representatives from Land O’Lakes’ Truterra, Central Valley Ag Coop (CVA), and food ingredient manufacturer Corbion present an object example of how up- and downstream organizations can work together toward trying to achieve sustainability goals. But other than audience generated questions in sessions throughout the event (which I am sure there were), we put carbon aside as a feature topic.

In the end, I am pleased to report that no one came up to me at the conference and told me we “missed the boat” on carbon, nor were there any admonishments to be found in the post-conference survey.

When comes to learning opportunities we create like Tech Hub LIVE that focus on opportunities now and in the immediate term, carbon is still a wild west without a sheriff, to borrow a fun analogy. So many articles and online sessions become a circular discussion of, if we could just streamline the data, provide level value to farmers, and make the programs more turnkey, we’d be golden. Things that only the largest among us can address, and even then maybe not.

The sustainability program example actually does involve retail proactivity, which is exciting. Being the liaison to the farmer, establishing and enforcing protocols in conjunction with partners, ensuring data integrity and flow … are important and in the wheelhouse of the retail establishment. And, it demonstrates the power of partnerships as we take steps toward helping consumer-facing organizations meet their goals for producing products in a sustainable way.

Sustainability initiatives are a good proving ground for carbon programs in the future, at least from where retailers stand. Carbon sequestration programs will likely take time to develop, but the rules could come together quickly. Remember being stunned a decade ago when the ethanol mandates hit? Those organizations who were prepared did well, while most of the late-comers never caught up. Similar government intervention could jolt the carbon market onto a much faster track.

Keep learning, talk to possible partners, discuss interest in sustainability and carbon programs with customers. And at least dip a toe in the water, with clear eyes and reasonable expectations. Those with knowledge and experience will have a leg up on the competition when full-fledged carbon opportunities come a’knockin’.

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