The Good Growth Plan Gains Ground on Food Insecurity

A progress report from Syngenta shows significant advances toward reaching the goals of The Good Growth Plan.
The world needs to grow more food during the next five decades than it has over the past 10,000 years. It’s a staggering reality that represents a significant motivator for Syngenta and underscores the continued importance of The Good Growth Plan, the company’s framework of six global sustainability commitments that it plans to achieve by 2020.

“It’s incumbent upon the ag industry to cultivate a more sustainable future for agriculture,” says Jill Wheeler, head of sustainable productivity for Syngenta in North America. “The measurable goals that comprise The Good Growth Plan are helping us get there. And the metrics we’re collecting to demonstrate our progress are helping us further validate our efforts and highlight the ongoing work that is making a difference.”

Measuring the extent of its reach—and the value the commitments have on people, communities and the environment—is what differentiates The Good Growth Plan from a well-intentioned set of ideals that has little or no practical impact. Providing annual progress reports helps promote accountability and transparency; since the plan’s inception, Syngenta has publicly shared how the company is realizing each commitment.

The 2016 progress report for The Good Growth Plan, released in March 2017, brings to life the key projects and initiatives that are helping Syngenta deliver on its ambitious sustainability goals. Here’s a look at where each commitment stands:

  1. Make crops more efficient

    • Measurable goal: Increase the average productivity of the world’s major crops by 20 percent without using more land, water or inputs.
    • Progress to date: Across all Syngenta reference farms, the average land productivity increase in 2016 was 1.2 percent. Meanwhile, smallholders achieved an 8 percent increase in productivity.
    • Notable 2016 learnings/achievements: Without an efficient global infrastructure for agricultural data, the value of openness and transparency is limited. To contribute to a more robust infrastructure, Syngenta joined the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) initiative. The company’s work with GODAN is helping Syngenta create a more effective data ecosystem for the industry.

  2. Rescue more farmland

    • Measurable goal: Improve the fertility of more than 24 million acres of farmland on the brink of degradation.
    • Progress to date: In 2016, Syngenta programs benefited an additional 4.6 million acres of land, bringing the cumulative total to 10.6 million acres.
    • Notable 2016 learnings/achievements: Syngenta substantially increased the amount of farmland acreage benefiting from this goal by better integrating soil management practices into its commercial offers.

      In North America, efforts to better quantify the soil health and nutritive benefits of cover crops will continue to be a priority in 2017, says Macie O’Shaughnessy, sustainable solutions specialist for Syngenta. “As we are able to increasingly correlate the benefits of specific management practices with measurable results—for example, demonstrating the impact that certain practices have on indicators like water and nutrient-use efficiency—we help farmers bring more credibility and purpose to these types of decisions,” she says.

      To promote a better understanding of soil-conservation techniques among growers, retailers and channel partners, Syngenta is establishing cover-crop demonstrations at selected Grow More Experience sites this year.

  3. Help biodiversity flourish

    • Measurable goal: Enhance biodiversity on more than 12 million acres of farmland.
    • Progress to date: Syngenta has engaged in programs in 34 countries, benefiting a total area of 12.1 million acres.
    • Notable 2016 learnings/achievements: A large-scale rainforest restoration project helped bring Syngenta within 200,000 acres of meeting its 2020 biodiversity commitment target of 12.3 million acres.

  4. Empower smallholders

    • Measurable goal: Reach 20 million smallholders and enable them to increase productivity by 50 percent.
    • Progress to date: In 2016, the calculated number of smallholders reached via sales totaled 16.6 million.
    • Notable 2016 learnings/achievements: In 2016, Syngenta received the findings from three social impact assessments, conducted in 2015 in China, India and Mexico. This output is helping the company achieve a better understanding of its interactions with smallholders in these countries, which will help Syngenta augment the benefits it brings to growers and communities.

  5. Help people stay safe

    • Measurable goal: Train 20 million farm workers on labor safety, especially in developing countries.
    • Progress to date: In 2016, Syngenta reached 6.8 million people, with dedicated safety training programs and initiatives aligned with commercial activities. This brought the cumulative total of farm workers reached to 17.2 million.
    • Notable 2016 learnings/achievements: Syngenta entered into a joint working group with the international network organization Solidaridad to seek a deeper understanding of farmers’ behaviors, in an effort to improve the transfer of knowledge and the adoption of training messages.

      In North America, as part of its safe-use outreach efforts, Syngenta has trained more than 900 pest control professionals in the application of an insect-control technology from its Lawn and Garden portfolio to help fight the spread of the Zika virus.

  6. Look after every worker

    • Measurable goal: Strive for fair labor conditions throughout the entire supply chain network.
    • Progress to date: In 2016, Syngenta completed implementation of its Fair Labor program in China, Colombia, Mexico and Paraguay. At year-end, the number of suppliers reached was more than 24,000, representing 82 percent of the Syngenta seed supply chain.
    • Notable 2016 learnings/achievements: Syngenta continues its efforts to obtain certification to GLOBALG.A.P. Risk Assessment on Social Practice (GRASP) for all Syngenta and third-party commercial flower farms. By the end of the year, 73 percent of farms had GLOBALG.A.P. certification and 24 percent had undergone the GRASP assessment.

      Also in 2016, the Syngenta Supplier Sustainability Program covered nearly 50 percent of its chemical suppliers in North America. This program aims to raise awareness among suppliers on the proper, sustainable use of Syngenta crop protection products.

“It’s incumbent upon the ag industry to cultivate a more sustainable future for agriculture. The measurable goals that comprise The Good Growth Plan are helping us get there.”

Jill Wheeler
While these goals—and the programs and partnerships that have been integral to their success—are quantifiable, the dialogues about The Good Growth Plan and sustainability aren’t. But that doesn’t mean conversation, education and industry solidarity aren’t shaping the landscape for sustainable agriculture. “With The Good Growth Plan, Syngenta has a global platform to provide a face and voice to the farmers who are making a difference and ensuring a viable future for agriculture,” says Wheeler.

For Liz Hunt, sustainable solutions lead for Syngenta in North America, these dialogues are crucial to engaging and bringing together the growers, agribusinesses, food companies, industry groups, policymakers and consumers that collectively influence the future of agriculture—starting with the very definition of sustainability.

Report shows @SyngentaUS making significant advances towards reaching #GoodGrowthPlan goals.

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“Sustainability is a word that can be interpreted many different ways, depending on the audience,” Hunt says. “Not only does this word have numerous meanings, it’s also emotionally charged.”

Hunt and O’Shaughnessy stress the importance of articulating the three equally important aspects of sustainability. “We describe sustainability as a three-legged stool,” says O’Shaughnessy. “It’s a balance between environmental, economic and social practices and benefits.”

A more pronounced nexus between environmental sustainability and economic sustainability is one that has emerged in connection with the ongoing challenging commodity climate. “If farmers aren’t profitable, then they can’t be sustainable,” says O’Shaughnessy. “In this era of low commodity prices and tight margins, adopting sustainability measures must be economically viable for farmers—and we need to have the data to communicate the benefits of adopting sustainability measures. With The Good Growth Plan and the work Syngenta is doing in Sustainable Solutions, we’re able to do just that.”