Developments in policy, technology and the subsequent awareness they brought gave us reasons for climate optimism in 2022. However in 2023 and beyond, we will collectively need to accelerate our impact if we want to align with both our short- and long-term climate targets. Building a comprehensive corporate climate strategy that truly ‘accelerates impact’ in this way is nuanced, and companies must consider a multitude of factors when determining which investments to make. That is, when it comes to climate action, it can be difficult to know what to prioritize, where to invest, and how much is enough.
Some leading climate-tech investors like Stripe and Shopify posit that we should be investing in technologies of the future while simultaneously embracing currently available climate strategies. In other words, while we should have an eye towards the future, and further invest in promising technologies (like direct air capture [DAC] and carbon capture and storage [CCS], to name a couple carbon-related examples).
We need to be doing everything that we can currently — avoiding, reducing, and removing carbon — in order to give ourselves the best chance at mitigating the most damaging effects of climate change.
Currently, many companies are simply purchasing carbon offsets to meet their climate goals in lieu of developing a more comprehensive and forward-looking climate strategy. However, the vast majority of offsets (>95%) that are traded in voluntary carbon markets are derived from avoided emissions rather than reductions or removals – a trend that has received a fair amount of public criticism and scrutiny – and gauging the true climate impacts of these offsets is tricky. Furthermore, there can be a fair amount of variance in the quality of an offset, and companies that aren’t doing proper diligence can end up investing in poor quality offsets.
Leading climate change consulting firms have pointed out that this lack of fungibility — or consistency — in the carbon market leads to uncertainty and risk for companies investing in the space, as it yields the potential for greenwashing. Unfortunately, this reasoning can lead companies who might be looking to take immediate action to wait for more secure alternatives. While it is true that we want to do as much as possible to ensure that we are investing in sound climate solutions, the wait-and-see mentality is what we need to avoid if we are going to achieve the impact that we need now and in the future.
Investing in regenerative agriculture is one approach that enables companies to avoid, reduce and remove, which is scalable globally with current technological capabilities. Regenerative agriculture refers to a set of practices that, over time, build soil health, increase biodiversity and water quality, and, importantly, can help sequester carbon out of the atmosphere and store it more permanently in the soil.
For food companies that have a large proportion of their corporate emissions tied to value chain activities, and specifically agriculture, investing in regenerative agriculture programs should be an important component of accelerating impact.
Let’s talk through a few examples of how Regrow works with a range of partners (check out some of our case studies here) to implement and monitor programs that help avoid, reduce, and remove emissions. Projects focusing on avoiding emissions in the first place – often the least expensive form of climate action – encourage growers and supply chain partners to move away from conventional practices. This can be growers avoiding tilling their fields, or adopting more precise fertilizer application techniques that avoid overapplication. Regrow also helps partners implement reduction projects, such as strategic irrigation management practices on rice paddies that reduce methane, or more effective manure management practices that can reduce nitrous oxide volatilization. Lastly, Regrow works with partners to remove carbon directly by implementing agronomic practices that accrue carbon more permanently in the soil, such as strategic crop rotations, incorporating cover crops, and employing regenerative grazing systems.
Ultimately, at Regrow, we are very thankful to be able to work with our partners on such a diverse and extensive array of climate-smart agriculture initiatives. While there is still a lot to iron out, all of our collective action and investment in the regenerative agriculture space still counts, and is important. We are excited to continue to see this space grow and evolve, and as it does, we hope to continue to build great partnerships and encourage all forms of climate action.