Tate & Lyle’s sustainable agriculture programmes focus on the agricultural raw materials where we have the biggest opportunity to make a positive impact: stevia and corn. The greenhouse gases resulting from their cultivation, harvesting and processing represent a significant proportion of our carbon footprint. With expert partners, we work with farmers to improve their environmental stewardship and positively impact the communities where they live and work.
Laying the groundwork for growth in sustainable stevia
Following the acquisition of Sweet Green Fields in 2020, we launched a sustainable agriculture pilot programme for stevia, a popular, plant-derived no calorie sweetener, in Dongtai, Eastern China in partnership with Earthwatch Europe and Nanjing Agricultural University. The focus of the programme is to improve farmers’ environmental stewardship and livelihoods through education and changes in farming practices. Today, the programme continues to expand among our stevia suppliers. With research into stevia production and sustainability an emerging field, this programme will help to build the evidence-base and demonstrate the positive impact of adopting more sustainable practices to the farming community and wider industry.
Continuous improvement in corn cultivation
In 2018, we partnered with Truterra™, the sustainability business of Land O’Lakes, one of America’s largest farmer-owned cooperatives, to develop a sustainable agriculture programme that uses cutting-edge technology to enable U.S. corn farmers to more effectively target and measure the impact of efforts to protect the environment. In 2019, this first-of-its-kind programme expanded to 1.5 million acres of corn - (equivalent to the acres of corn we procured in 2019)- and was recognised as the largest registered continuous improvement project to date by Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. Field to Market is a US-based collaboration extending throughout the agricultural value chain focused on providing opportunities for continuous improvement in environmental outcomes. Today, the equivalent to 100% of the corn that we procure is enrolled in the programme.
Supporting sustainable stevia
Following our acquisition of the stevia business, Sweet Green Fields, in November 2020, and working in partnership with expert organisations, we are helping to ensure that the stevia industry grows sustainably and in a way that benefits farmer communities and livelihoods.
Corn programme results and highlights
The programme has been running for three years and continues to support 1.5 million acres, more than 22,000 fields and over 1,800 growers.
In spite of the challenges that the pandemic posed to the agriculture sector, our first year-on-year progamme results show that farmers have been helped to achieve modest environmental improvements on retained acres*.
- Greenhouse gases were reduced by 2%, the equivalent of removing 2,430 cars from the road in one year.
- Soil quality has improved slightly as measured by the Soil Conditioning Index (SCI), while topsoil erosion reduced by 1%. SCI is a tool used to gauge organic matter levels in soil, which is an important metric as organic matter is a primary indicator of soil quality, the capacity to sustain plant productivity. Soil organic matter is an important factor in carbon sequestration, the long-term storage of carbon dioxide, and efforts to tackle global climate change.
- Nitrogen use efficiency measures the efficiency with which soil nitrate-N from fertilizer, crop residue, manure, and soil organic matter, is converted into grain-N. Nitrogen use efficiency continues to be considered advanced within the industry at 0.93 pounds of Nitrogen per bushel; a 1% increase from 2019.
*While we have 1.5 million acres in the programme, we report results from ‘retained acres’ which are those acres that were in the programme in 2019 and 2020. Retained acres in 2020 were 1.24 million, representing an 86% grower retention rate, which we believe speaks to the value our partners see in the programme.