SOWING THE FUTURE
Priyanka Mittal of India Gate presides over one of the world’s biggest rice companies, and understands the implications of sustainable leadership and business practices
ACCORDING TO A STUDY DONE BY THE
World Bank, one of the most worrying predictions about the future is the fact that agricultural production will reduce by 15 to 30 percent by 2080 due to climate change. A substantial percentage of people still suffer from acute famine.
This is perhaps, why human beings have become very conscious about sustainability efforts. Sustainability is the strategic efforts towards meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generation from meeting their own needs.
In the last two decades, consumer demand for sustainability in any industry has increased– a 2015 worldwide study found that 55 percent of consumers from 60 countries said they were willing to pay more for products and services from companies committed to social and environmental improvements. This is one of the reasons as to why sustainability has become an integral part of any business, but it’s not just about having a few clever initiatives that help keep the environment safe.
Consumers, while willing to pay more, also want businesses to truly change their ways, not just because it has become a trend to do so. For consumers to really trust sustainability efforts, businesses must change their whole operation and business practices, otherwise consumers feel that any attempt at sustainability is nothing more than a PR stunt.
At the centre of these efforts is the food and beverage industry, which directly affects the agricultural sector.
According to research, consumers are now more than ever aligning their personal values with the brands they buy, making this one of the reasons why sustainable leadership is important to stay relevant in the food and beverage industry. This has raised the bar higher for companies to articulately define their values and what they stand for. From F&B manufacturers who adopt sustainable means of production to restaurants and cafes that minimise their impact on the environment through clever use of leftovers, worldwide, the F &
B industry has embraced the greening of business practice.
But how do you achieve the sustainability leadership scorecard in the industry?
Sustainability is a responsibility that should be shared by the industry as a whole and alike. The F&B industry is extremely complex, involving many decision makers right from the food producers to processors to retailers to the restaurateurs. In order to maximise the performance and growth of a sustainable food model it is important that stakeholders involved at different levels come together to transform the food system with one common goal: beginning from manufacturers producing environment friendly healthy food products to retailers and other distributing junctions supporting and backing the efforts of the manufacturer and vice versa.
We at India Gate have shifted the focus towards making this a reality, continuously investing in seed research and development. Having invested over $2m into agricultural research programmes, we focus on creating increases in farm productivity while simultaneously eliminating the environmental impact. Sustainability starts with the seeds. Providing the right seed (which is not GMO) which gives the right productivity to farmers.
Next is the agenda that has garnered the maximum visibility – resource utilisation. There is talk on water utilisation, soil preservation without addition of too much toxicity by addition of excess pesticides and fertilisers. Basmati is naturally gifted as it is monsoon fed. Hence it requires no ground water as compared to other cash crops. With initiatives such as lesser levelling of land, further water wastage is eliminated. Shorter duration crops which are resilient to common pests reduce stress on land, improve productivity and require less chemical inputs. The output is natural product, very close to organic goals.
Port harvest crop storage can also be done in sustainable ways. In order to reduce climate impact we have a plant now is practically every Basmati growing state to reduce transportation of grains.
THE FUTURE OF SUSTAINABILITY IN THE FOOD AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRY MUST START WITH ITS LEADERSHIP, WRITES PRIYANKA MITTAL, DIRECTOR OF INDIA GATE, KRBL LTD
Another principle of sustainable leadership in the industry is customer engagement. Most consumers are attracted to companies because of their sustainability efforts. Communication with customers transparently on the business process and visualising the supply chain via social media, not only creates talking point on the business processes, but brings the consumers closer to growers. This generates far greater confidence in the product/brand than any marketing or promotion can do. It is estimated that more than 40 percent of shoppers are interested in purchasing environmentally friendly foods and beverages. Moreover, consumers are now willing to pay up to a 25 percent premium for foods and beverages that are certified as either organic or environmentally friendly. In the west, the retail chain Wholefoods espouses that consumer demands best.
The products retailers stock are also important when it comes to principles of sustainability leadership. More than half the population indicate that they prefer shopping at stores that carry food grown on sustainable farms. Consumers these days are not only interested in a healthy body but also in a healthy environment. Since retailers are at the end of the supply chain and capture the bulk of the value of the product, they need to learn to share value across the value chain, in order to keep the chain healthy. Capturing bulk of the value, without redeployment backwards, will either kill the chain in the long term, or leave it with little possibility of rejuvenation via innovation, efficiency etc. Moreover, such chains eventually become transactional agents, rather than relationship-based value agents.
Companies have been the first to take the sustainability agenda head on and eventually many governments joined the initiative. Most companies started out of a business need seeing input resourcing difficult and non-perennial. However these same companies were quick to realise how it converted into better products, better brands and eventually better bottom line. Soon sustainability became a buzzword and lost its true meaning. True sustainability requires long-term vision, purpose based existence rather than profit-based existence and patience capital. Some projects may
not generate the requisite ROI, but still need to be undertaken because they make sustainable sense.
The most important contributor in the present and future scenario to the sustainability efforts will be governments. WTO pressures have brought a lot of homogeneity and improvement in global lives on many economic and sociological fronts such as treatment of labour, standards etc.
However, in the name of consumer protection, the same standards are now being used as protectionist barriers to prevent free trade of goods risking the entire sustainability movement. Sustainable supply chains are now struggling to find markets for their products due to adoption of various forced standards. Therefore the governments globally will have to lead a movement in the support of ethical value chains allowing sustainable chains to flourish. The sustainable movement needs more cradling, rather than strangling, to cater to the future generations and growing populations’ needs.
*India Gate is a global food brand within the KRBL Group, specialising in basmati, brown rice and quinoa. With a heritage of over 120 years, it is the world’s largest basmati miller and exporter, present around the world. KRBL is known for its seed development and farmer engagement programme and for implementing the fastest scalable lab-to-market public-private partnership project with high-value 1121 grain. KRBL has won many accolades with its most recent being the coveted APEDA Award Golden Trophy for the largest exporter of basmati rice.
Sustainable farming Priyanka Mittal is the director of KRBL Ltd, the first company to sustain a successful public-private partnership in Basmati farming in India
Improving productivity India Gate has invested over $2m into agricultural research programmes