By Brett Begemann
President and Chief Operating Officer

(Originally published in Beyond the Rows)

Bringing people to the table is an important part of our mission at Monsanto. Whether it’s for a family dinner or a spirited conversation, we know great things can happen when people pull up a chair and dig in.

That’s why I was so pleased to be a part of the Economist’s recent Sustainability Summit in London, where about 200 thought leaders from businesses, nonprofit organizations and global governments gathered to talk about real solutions for a sustainable future.

It’s always inspiring to talk with groups from multiple nations, industries and perspectives about how we can collectively improve the world around us. Here at Monsanto, we know farmers make dozens of decisions each year that help shape their harvest. Just like there’s no one-size-fits-all plan for growing crops, there’s no single formula for sustainability. But, we do know that everything is connected, and collaboration is key. Two billion more people will be added to the world by 2050. We can provide for them sustainably, and we’re going to need all kinds of tools to do it.

Take climate change. It’s one of the biggest and most important challenges we face collectively as growers and as members of the global population. You can’t farm effectively without knowing the climate and how to interact with it. And instability — including climate change – is a major threat to harvests. Smallholder farmers in particular are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, because in many areas of the world, the tools available to smallholder farmers are generations behind.

As an industry, agriculture is in a unique position to make a huge difference when it comes to climate change. That’s why we are doing everything we can to decrease our footprint and help mitigate agriculture’s overall impact.

First, we’re working to improve in our own backyard. We intend to make our operational footprint carbon neutral by 2021 through some changes in the way we operate our facilities and how we work with farmers. Second, we know that with the right practices in place – including cover crops and reduced tillage – farming can actually keep a significant amount of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. If we do this right, soil can actually hold more carbon than was emitted to produce the crops. This practice is called carbon neutral crop production.

We’re working to make it easier for farmers to help shrink the footprint of agriculture. We’ll publicly share data and modeling about carbon neutral crop production to help farmers around the world use best practices that reduce carbon emissions.

At the Sustainability Summit, there were a lot of different organizations with a lot of ideas about how to improve the world around us. And one of the things that struck me was the sense of collaboration. People are passionate about sustainability, and they’re passionate about food. That combination can lead to some pretty spirited conversations. What I’ve seen, both at the Sustainability Summit and as I talk with organizations more about our climate commitments, is that people are willing to find common ground. We all agree that climate change is an important issue with major consequences, and that something should be done about it. It’s going to take all kinds of tools to make a difference, and I’m excited that agriculture will be part of the solution.