November 13, 2020
“In the past the (crop science) sector was more focused on delivering products and solutions to farmers only,” says Gabriela Burian. “It was not paying attention to the fact that the final customers were not only farmers but our entire society.”
In this episode of the “Purpose, Inc.,” podcast, host Michael Young talks to Gabriela Burian, senior director of Sustainable Food Systems at Bayer Crop Science, who’s helping ensure that one of the world’s biggest agrochemical companies is paying attention to that fact.
“Walk into a grocery store anywhere in the United States, and the miracle of modern agriculture is on dazzling display,” Michael says. The coronavirus pandemic barely caused a glitch in the global food supply. And yet controversy swirls around companies like Monsanto, which Bayer acquired in 2018, for the health and environmental impacts of products like RoundUp.
Building or rebuilding trust in Bayer, Gabriela says, involves actions on three front:
Transparency: On the “transparency” section of the Bayer Crop Science website, the company now posts Information it once kept private out of fears of giving valuable data to the competition. “We need to ensure there is access to our data, and everyone can touch these (data) to have a good and fair conversation with our scientists,” she says.
Accountability and sustainability: The company is working to merge sustainability with profitability. “We are calling it the path to become an impact generator,” she says. Bayer is shooting for a 30% reduction in its carbon and environmental footprints by 2030, and plans to make the company’s own operations carbon neutral by then.
Collaboration: Gabriela says she spends the majority of her time in dialogue with organizations like the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the World Economic Forum, and Food Systems Dialogues. “We understand this isn’t something that we can only achieve alone,” she says.
Many experts say the world will need to increase food production by 70% by 2050 to feed 10 billion people—without expanding agricultural land. It’s important to work with the 500 million smallholder farmers, Gabriela says, who provide 80% of food for communities across the world.
One of Bayer’s major initiatives is to empower 100 million of those farmers by improving access to agricultural knowledge and location-specific solutions. In India, for example, farmers in 10 states are now using Bayer tools to access agronomic information through their mobile phones.
Other efforts Gabriela and Michael talk about:
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an exercise for Bayer in practicing transparency as well as ensuring the safety of its supply chain. Gabriela thinks the pandemic will have powerful, long-lasting impacts by showing many companies that change is possible. “It’s certainly an interesting period of challenge,” she says, “but also enabling everyone who can stand up to stand up and say, ‘I can do more. I can do things differently.'”