Almost every panel discussion I’ve attended at COP28 has ended in a kumbaya moment around ‘the magic of collaboration’. Frankly… this is making me dizzy. We don’t need more stakeholders talking shop, we’ve got plenty of this. We need to solve for tangible action across the value chain to ensure every dollar invested goes towards maximum impact. I think this needs 3 unlocks:
1. Financial incentives. There is lots of talk about system level economics but limited focus on cash flow. To call a spade a spade, money to pay for sustainability can only come from three places:
- Passing the cost onto the consumer (including higher taxes);
- Margin contraction;
Out of these options, squeezing efficiencies doesn’t offer much and the money saved will not likely be held back for sustainability initiatives. This leaves us with passing the cost on to the consumer and margin contraction. Both options are only going to happen with regulation. Forward leaning companies recognise that proactive industry self-regulation can pre-empt government or legal action, and also create a competitive advantage.
2. Redefining procurement contracts. Every seller to a large company is orientated around the content of a contract; the volume, the price, the quality and the duration. This is ultimately all that matters. Legal and procurement teams need to change contracts from spot contracts to multi-year contracts to facilitate proper investment in change. This is a specific, pointed unlock and is more important than what companies say on stage. Forward leaning companies are already doing that (and we've actually worked with our legal partners to define articles that help our customers with this).
3. Data alignment and application. There isn’t a shortage of data frameworks and tools (which are now firmly in spam territory). What we critically need is more alignment behind existing standards, frameworks and norms (e.g., PACT (Partnership for Carbon Transparency), Foundation Earth). We then need alignment behind their application. Interoperability needs to be core to our thinking so that every software, consultancy and internal tool can speak to each other. Vendors (including us) need to stop peddling the idea of single industry wide, global solutions (with implicit lock-ins/monopolies/world domination).
These unlocks will be the real magic at the heart of collaboration. Let’s stop kidding ourselves that collaboration is just going to happen on goodwill.
Industry Insight: The Three Types of Characters at COP28
I’ve been meeting three types of characters at COP28: missionaries, work horses, and parasites. And while I think many good things may come from this COP, a central problem is that these three characters can’t speak to each other.
Missionaries are behind many world changing innovations that I am 100% certain will never generate cash flow. They still expect that ‘system level thinking’ will prevail, and talk about the ‘$3 trillion blue economy’.
Work horses are getting on with the task at hand, and doing their best to implement within the frameworks others have set (but not questioning the overall system). You’ll find them reducing the fugitive emissions of oil & gas.
Parasites are here for the money. They’re looking to make an investment or extract a rent. They're the suits filling out that night cap you were at. Their company sponsored your panel, and their ads line the streets.
Many of us (myself included) probably have aspects of all three. But who’s going to translate for all the rest?
Lessons Learned: Kraft Heinz’s Secret Sauce to an Effective Sustainability Strategy: Data
A section where we interview leading sustainability professionals, to share their advice on planning and executing initiatives. This week we were lucky enough to sit down with one of our customers, Kraft Heinz! David Shaw,Global Net Zero Transition Lead and Cristina Kenz, Chief Growth and Sustainability Office share how they are using data to redesign their strategy.
The challenge: unusable data.
Kraft Heinz has over 17,000 suppliers and millions (if not billions) of lines of data. The critical challenge they faced was unusable data. Data was siloed, fragmented, and lacked actionable insights.
On top of this, a bugbear for the KH team was that the GHG Protocol framework offers little actionable insight on how to meaningfully decarbonise. Instead, it clumps ~97% of your emissions into one Scope 3 category with even more obscure subcategories.
The workaround… enter Altruistiq (shameless plug alert). By slicing and dicing data through the lens of business activities, products, and services on the Altruistiq platform… Kraft Heinz can “reformulate the problem” in a way that makes sense to them. Having data visibility at the product-level enables KH to make procurement-informed decisions e.g., ingredient optimisations, supplier swaps etc.
The drive for data visibility (down to every single tomato)
As the world's largest tomato seed manufacturer, Kraft Heinz recognised the need for sustainable tomato sourcing. With 65 million bottles of ketchup produced annually, every tomato matters. Their commitment to 100% sustainable Ketchup tomatoes by 2025 hinges on reliable data, generic emission factors and assumptions were not good enough. Kraft Heinz has prioritised data visibility, to pinpoint emission hotspots and track the progress of reduction initiatives e.g., emission reductions from factory switches to triple zero manufacturing sites (zero emissions, zero waste, zero water) and model different sourcing scenarios.
Learnings ripe for the picking:
Prioritise commercials: Embed sustainability within the commercial team. The closer you align them, the easier it is to get buy-in and budget.
Make data-driven decisions: Your strategy will be more effective if you understand the full picture. Go deep and granular with your data insight to make your strategic decisions easier.
Get creative. Know your customer profile and market the sustainability initiatives that will resonate the most. Most of KH’s customers won’t care about cover cropping (incidentally 100% of KH’s farms in Spain implement cover crops). However, KH launched two ingenious campaigns (credit where credit’s due Cristina) to push the soil health narrative to their consumers: -‘Marz Edition Ketchup’: made with tomatoes grown in extreme, Mars-like soil conditions. This was a two year long experimentation which finally resulted in a future-proof tomato variation. To celebrate, a bottle of ‘Mars Edition’ ketchup was launched into space. -‘S.O.S Tomatoes’: KH highjacked the game Fortnite. Players were able to grow tomatoes, however, they were challenged to run faster than the speed of soil degradation to reflect the rapid rate at which soil is degrading.
Both campaigns engaged ~3bn consumers, spiking interest in the brand’s sustainability agenda. With such high levels of consumer engagement, Cristina was able to demonstrate value in their sustainability initiatives… (a great tool for internal buy-in).
Watch the full interview above. Feel free to get in touch with David and Cristina - they’re full to the brim with learnings!
Policy Pulse | The Top COP28 Food Systems Developments
Food systems contribute a third of GHG emissions, 70% of freshwater use, and over 80% of biodiversity loss. So it’s welcome to see food and agriculture finally taking up centre stage at COP, this edition being the first to have a whole dedicated theme day on Sunday 10th.
The exciting developments:
Countries calling for action - 154 countries have signed the Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture to demand that food systems be included in NDCs. On top of this, a new high-ambition coalition led by Brazil, Norway and Sierra Leone - the Alliance of Champions for Food Systems Transformation - was launched to further demand national food system pathways with annual reporting.
Non-state coalitions pushing for further action - over 200 farmer's groups, businesses, NGOs and funds have banded together to set a shared vision for transforming food systems by 2030. This includes backing the Emirates declaration, increasing support for regenerative agriculture, and reducing methane and other food GHGs in line with 1.5 degrees. Another key development was the Dairy Methane Action Alliance, which saw 6 large dairy players (including Kraft Heinz and Danone) come together with the Environmental Defence Fund to measure and improve transparency around methane impacts.
NGOs launching practical advice on how to make this happen - A massive release came from the FAO, in the form of a roadmap of practical actions to shift the food system to lower emissions, all whilst preventing hunger. This focuses on global actions, with annual updates intended to give the view for regional, and then country-level action. Similarly, the WWF led a task force that has launched a toolkit for countries to tackle food systems.
The consistent call here is for countries’ NDCs to include the impact of agriculture and land use, which hopefully will be the case by the time we get to COP 30 in Brazil - notable for its massive role in food systems and forestry.
So from poor initial expectations of the COP president’s intentions, our hope remains strong on high ambition on fossil fuels and food systems being taken on to COP 29 - we’ll see you in Azerbaijan!