By Maureen Mazurek
Sustainability Operations Lead
All of us involved in the challenge of feeding a growing world sustainably know that the only way we will succeed is through collaboration. How thrilling, then, that a large delegation from Monsanto was able to participate in September in New York at the 10th Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting — which convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.
Our company has participated in CGI before, but this year we clearly took our role to a higher level. And I’m excited about the growing opportunities that we’re seeing to work with others to address key challenges in growing food sustainably. I’d single out one achievement and one activity, in particular, as highlights.
Through the launch of a new Food Systems track at CGI, Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant and other leaders of a host of different organizations across the food and agriculture industries participated in a high-level strategy session to contribute to priorities for the track’s activities in the year ahead. “Track” is the title CGI gives to topic-specific collaborative areas of focus; other examples include Energy, Education and Workforce Development, Environmental Stewardship, and Global Health. Food Systems has now become the ninth track on that list.
Eventually, we can expect our participation in the Food Systems track to lead to a CGI Commitment to Action, a new, specific, and measurable plan for addressing a significant global challenge, as we have made in previous years. For example in 2013, we committed to addressing the collapse of the honey bee population in the United States through on-the-ground solutions to restore and protect honey bee populations. Suffice it to say, we are at the table with other key organizations seeking to develop new concepts and innovations to feed the world sustainably.
We also co-hosted a topic dinner with CGI devoted to the same theme. Nearly 100 people attended this event which was entitled Feeding 9 Billion Together: Sustainable Food Production in a Changing Climate. The highlight was a panel discussion that featured Peter Seligmann, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Conservation International, a global environmental organization; Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and Walmart Chief Sustainability Officer; Marc Gunther, editor at large of Guardian Sustainable Business, an on-line platform for leaders of sustainable change; Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the United Nations’ World Food Programme; and Robb Fraley, our Chief Technology Officer and World Food Prize Laureate.
Not a bad lineup, I have to say. What came through to me was how much common ground already exists among leaders like these despite their different perspectives. There is strong agreement on the need to focus in areas like climate change, which is affecting us right now and could further threaten access to balanced meals if unchecked. And there is a strong recognition of the need for new tools for agriculture to both reduce environmental impact and to get the most food production out of every resource used.
CGI also presented dozens of opportunities for participants to discuss a wealth of important subjects. Our Monsanto team had a busy four days with key stakeholders, all of whom have important roles to play in addressing the various CGI tracks. For example:
- Hugh Grant, CEO, participated in several high-level panel discussions. One, moderated by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, examined the private sector’s role in supporting education. Mr. Grant had an opportunity during that conversation to cite Monsanto’s support for the Americas Farmers Grow Rural Education program and other education-related funding over the past three years. Mr. Grant also participated in a CEO panel, moderated by CNBC news anchor Becky Quick, addressing the relationship between corporations and consumers. Executives from Apple and The Hershey Company joined him in that discussion.
- Jesus Madrazo, our vice president, corporate engagement, attended meetings sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Inter-American Development Bank’s session How Latin America Can Feed the World, and Goldman Sachs The Future of Global Economic Growth: Proving the Case for Women Entrepreneurs.
- Four of our leaders met with Kevin Hagen, CEO of Feed the Children, a global program based in Oklahoma City. They were Mark Edge, our director of Water-Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA); Dan Goldstein, our lead for medical science and outreach; Natalie Rosenbloom, our vice president of sustainability and partnerships; and Kenneth Avery, Vice President Global Vegetables Lead at Monsanto.
- Mark Edge and Robb Fraley also met with representatives of The Clinton Development Initiative about its farm project in Tanzania and opportunities to partner around the Water Efficient Maize for Africa partnership. Mark Edge and Dr. Dan Goldstein met with Marie Lichtenberg, the director of international partnerships at Humana People to People and Planet Aid.
In short, I think it was an extremely productive session that deepened existing important relationships and also established new ones. During the next few decades – which we know will be so crucial to the outcome of this century – deeper collaboration could not be more important.