- Food industry giants are aligning on a definition of regenerative agriculture as they face criticism for a lack of progress on efforts to address farming's impact on climate.
- SAI Platform, a network of 170 major food companies working to advance sustainability, released a global framework on Wednesday for how businesses should transition to regenerative agriculture.
- The framework, called "Regenerating Together," has already been tested by 20 businesses and farmer co-ops, SAI said. It focuses on outcome-based approaches to protect soil health, biodiversity, climate and water while simultaneously supporting farmer business development.
A lack of agreement over what regenerative agriculture actually means has stalled corporate sustainability efforts, confused consumers and led many to dismiss the term as "greenwashing."
By getting major food companies to agree on a definition and framework, SAI said businesses can get measurable outcomes and begin a sector-wide transition to regenerative agriculture. SAI's members include some of the biggest players in the industry, including Nestlé, Danone, Pepsico, Unilever and Bayer.
The framework gives guidance on how businesses can work with farmers to assess environmental risks, identify potential solutions and measure performance.
"The potential impact is huge and the development of this global framework through cross-industry collaboration is a key step towards scaling the transition to more sustainable farming practices," Yves Leclerc, global director of agriculture sustainability at McCain and steering committee chair of SAI's regenerative program, said in a statement.
SAI's framework is meant to be flexible and allows businesses to take a variety of approaches to fit what works best for their farms. The definition also emphasizes the importance of considering farmer profitability and crop yield, with the report acknowledging that "thriving farm communities and workforces are critical in supporting regenerative outcomes."
The food sector has weathered criticism for a lack of action on regenerative agriculture. A recent report from a food focused investor network noted more than half of companies with regenerative agriculture promises do not have quantitative metrics to achieve their goals.
SAI said its framework will help companies "translate the often-ambiguous concepts of regenerative agriculture into action at farm level."
"We believe this framework sets a new standard for regenerative agriculture globally, whilst providing the flexibility that’s needed at farm level," Eric Soubeiran, vice president of business operations sustainability at Unilever, said in a statement.