The human race has been living beyond its means for over half a century, consuming more raw materials and emitting more harmful substances than our planet can cope with on its own. Climate change, the scarcity of water and the loss of biodiversity – along with continuing global population growth – are among the most pressing challenges of our time.
Reality has long since caught up with the perception that being green and staying in the black are mutually exclusive. Profits alone are worthless if they are not generated sustainably. Placing companies on a climate-neutral footing is vital, but it can only be the start. We will fail to meet the most important global development goals unless we manage to make future growth far more sustainable.
The tasks are too great to be tackled by organizations or groups acting alone. If we are to end poverty and hunger, protect resources and species, and put a check on man-made global warming, it’s essential for business and society not to get bogged down in one-dimensional confrontation. An important first step would be for everyone involved to instead acknowledge the complexity of the challenge. We know, for example, that organic farming uses fewer crop protection products than conventional agriculture. At the same time, however, organic farmers need far more space to obtain the same yield – space that we don’t have on Earth, certainly not if we want to prevent rain forest from being cleared to make way for agricultural land in the future.
Since no one can currently claim to have found the one and only solution for the future of agriculture, we need social discourse that takes into account as many aspects and correlations as possible and is based on scientific findings rather than prejudices, simple assertions or personal views.
Offering the growing global population development opportunities, not condemning it to poverty as used to be the case, but also respecting the natural limits of our planet is a global, cross-generational challenge. Consequently, international companies that operate based on this understanding are just as important as the people who’ve had enough of it and take to the streets during Green Week to demand fair and more eco-friendly agriculture.
We are aware that people take a dim view of the current dominance of agro-industrial production and we are facing up to this criticism. Damage is done when monocultural farmland squeezes out small-scale farmers, for example. Viewing the challenges of sustainable agriculture in holistic terms, however, makes it equally clear that small farms and outdated cultivation methods alone are inadequate to tackle global hunger.
The world is complex, as are the answers to the questions of our time. In this tricky conflict situation, it’s crucial to devise specific solutions that meet the diverse, sometimes contradictory requirements and objectives – solutions that combine the best aspects of various types of agriculture.
Bayer is therefore researching innovative solutions that pave the way for more sustainable crop cultivation while also increasing farmers’ yields and incomes. In addition to slashing our own greenhouse gas emissions, we will also place our suppliers under a similar obligation and help customers make their value chains more sustainable. As recently as the end of last year, we took our sustainability commitments to a whole new level: