Supporting a green recovery and sustainable future

A sustainable food system that delivers food security and nutrition for the population comprises several aspects, from economic to social well-being and more importantly, environmental. Anna Pierce, director of sustainability for Tate & Lyle, provides an overview of the company’s sustainability commitment, and elaborates how it supports farmers to measure and reduce their carbon footprint.

As a global ingredient and solutions provider, Tate & Lyle is reliant on crops, plants and natural resources to operate. The company recognises the threat posed to the world’s land, water and air by modern day production and consumption; in line with the purpose of improving lives for generations, Tate & Lyle is committed to robust, urgent action backed by science to protect the planet’s natural resources for the benefit of future generations.

Tate & Lyle began the process of setting new 2030 environmental targets last year, yet could not have anticipated the onset of a global pandemic, which is upending global markets, touching lives the world over, and reshaping the way people live and work. While the impacts and legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic are yet to be fully understood, there is no doubt that the climate emergency the world is facing into remains the main threat to a shared future.

As the company embarked on setting its new climate change, water and waste reduction targets, we asked ourselves, “In a decade’s time, will we look back and feel as though we’ve done enough?” Fast-forward to mid-2020, and while the business landscape is markedly different, the scale of the climate challenge is unchanged. Recognising the inherent risks of delaying action, Tate & Lyle published new commitments to reduce water use intensity by 15% and beneficially use all of the waste the company generates by 2030, and to eradicate coal use in operations by 2025, while continuing the support for sustainable agriculture.

To make a meaningful reduction to greenhouse gas emissions, Tate & Lyle has committed to lowering CO2e from its on-site energy consumption (Scope 1 and 2 emissions) by 30%, and emissions coming from the value chain (Scope 3 emissions (by 15% by 2030. The company is also committed to setting science-based targets, which are aligned with the latest climate science that emphasises the need to slow down global warming. Choosing to set absolute targets for greenhouse gas emissions rather than intensity targets and pursing science-based targets set the right level of challenge for Tate & Lyle, and represents a meaningful contribution to wider efforts to address climate change.

Scope 3 targets are the new frontier for businesses, and particularly different to set and measure progress around as they involve members in the value chain, such as suppliers, customers and distributors. US-grown corn is the main agricultural raw material that Tate & Lyle source to produce sweeteners, texturants, fibres and industrial products, and corn production is by far the largest source of Scope 3 emissions.

US Midwestern farming communities have a long history of taking action to protect the environment, but they have not had the tools to give them full visibility of the impact of their actions. The acceptable industry standard sees growers using data collected from 10% of their acres to report on their environmental impact and make decisions about their entire acreage. They use select conservation practices, such as cover crops and existing precision agriculture tools, to complete this.

To help growers target their efforts and measure their progress on their entire acreage, Tate & Lyle has partnered with Truterra, formerly Land O’Lakes Sustain, a conservation solutions provider based in the US and part of a large farmer-owned cooperative, to develop a sustainable agriculture programme. The programme leverages Truterra’s technology to give growers insight into the impact the adoption of conservation practices would have on both the environment and their own profitability. This provides Tate & Lyle to have full visibility to data on 100% acres so as to strengthen the partnerships with growers while supporting their conservation journey. Customers of Tate & Lyle can also access these insights to achieve their own sustainability goals.

Under this programme, Tate & Lyle has been able to support participating corn growers to make data-informed decisions about their farms, with acre-by-acre insights to optimise their business and drive environmental improvements in greenhouse gas emission reduction, nitrogen efficiency, erosion, and soil quality.

In 2019, after a successful pilot, 1.5 million corn acres have been enrolled to the sustainability programme, which is equivalent to Tate & Lyle’s global, annual procurement volume. The company is heartened to see early results that show a positive impact and, alongside with the sustainability programme, is optimistic in making a difference for communities where it operates and for the planet.

Although the future is uncertain, and COVID-19 remains a threat in the society, Tate & Lyle is confident in tackling climate change through greater collaboration, innovative technology, and science-based action. And one thing is certain – the planet can’t afford to wait.

Employee engagement

Tate & Lyle believes it is vital to encourage and empower its employees to think about the sustainability improvements they can help introduce in its operations. In 2018, the company began its Journey to Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Excellence, a programme led by senior management and rolled out across sites with the engagement of all employees within the organisation. The focus is on sustainable culture change and development.

Every facility in Tate & Lyle’s network has an EHS team that looks for and finds ways to embed best practices, share ideas and lessons, and strengthen the company’s culture of EHS Excellence. For instance, the team at Tate & Lyle’s production facility in Nantong, China now mark Earth Day each year by planting trees in the factory grounds to improve air quality and add to the local habitat. Employees at this site have also replaced disposable cups with long-lasting containers, as have teams across Asia-Pacific. These efforts help bring sustainability into employees’ day-to-day, and complement Tate & Lyle’s wider operational improvements and partnerships.

This article was published in the August/September 2020 issue of Food & Beverage Asia.