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Talking Climate Action at the TED Countdown Summit

Nestlé Zone North America CEO on investing in regenerative agriculture practices
Steve Presley at TED

The global food system is in need of change. Currently, food production contributes to about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions. As the world’s largest food and beverage company, we have a tremendous opportunity to help create a regenerative, healthy food system while also working with the local farming communities that employ it. To do this we need to find solutions that create shared value throughout the ecosystem – value for us, value for farmers, value for our consumers, and value for the planet.

There are two million farms in the U.S., and we work with thousands of them, sourcing about 2,600 agricultural ingredients to make the beloved brands so many Americans choose to have in their kitchens.

Accelerating the transition to regenerative agriculture has become an essential part of our efforts to leave the world better than we found it. This work is part of our detailed roadmap to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. When we say regenerative agriculture, what we mean is using farming methods that can improve soil health and the farming ecosystem over time, helping reduce the impacts of climate change.

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to industry leaders at the 2023 TED Countdown Summit focused on finding solutions to climate challenges. I was proud to discuss the progress we’ve made so far, and where we’re focusing our energy to continue that progress in the long term.

Steve Presley at TED

How We’re Taking Action

As I said in the above video, talk is easy, but action is much more complicated. Our work in regenerative agriculture is broad - we’ve talked in the past about how we’re partnering with farmers to build regenerative systems for everything from Libby’s pumpkin to Nestlé Purina pet food – but I often think a good way to explain some of our recent efforts in regenerative agriculture is by taking a closer look at the layers of a pizza.

Let’s start with the main ingredient of a pizza crust: wheat. Our DiGiorno brand is helping bring regenerative agriculture practices to more than 100,000 acres of farmland, with the goal of improving soil, using less water, energy and fertilizer, and helping reduce the impacts of climate change.

Another key component of a good pizza is the sauce, so let’s look at tomatoes. Many tomato farmers in our supply chain are already implementing regenerative farming practices, so we’re focused on verification. Third-party verification is important because it helps hold us accountable, and helps farmers know where to focus next. We’re working with Leading Harvest, a non-profit organization that monitors and audits farming methods through their adaptable Farmland Management Standard to certify the practices of our tomato suppliers.

You can’t have a great pizza without cheese, and maybe some toppings. We were proud to become the first company to join the U.S. Dairy Net Zero Initiative, and a supplier for CARNATION became the first U.S. farm to pilot new farming practices that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2023, we teamed up with Cargill and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for one of the largest private sector regenerative ranching projects in the U.S. that supports ranchers in adopting voluntary conservation practices.

When Nestlé talks about transforming food systems, this is exactly the holistic approach we mean. We are taking proactive steps in our ingredient supply chains to help accelerate the transition to regenerative agriculture at scale.

Nestlé’s sustainability commitments are ambitious, but I also believe they are achievable. From investing in improving recycling infrastructure to using more renewable energy sources, we’ve already taken big swings on our journey to leave the world better than we found it. In the U.S., there are 30,000 Nestlé employees who are all committed to this work.

I’m one of those people, and I’m proud to be part of this collective effort.