Insight: what links climate change to pumpkin pie?

Nov 30, 2015

It continues to amaze me that there are still politicians, pundits, and business leaders who deny the urgency of climate change and its projected impact on our planet. Not only is this argument no longer credible, but we’re quickly running out of time to act.

While governments continue to wrestle with the issue, there’s one sector that gets it: food and agriculture. Climate change poses a fundamental threat to global food security, and food production systems around the world will need to adapt to changing weather patterns.

While the projected long-term impact of climate change is alarming – hunger and malnutrition are estimated to increase by up to 20% by 2050 – climate change is no longer a distant threat.

What does this mean for Nestlé? We need look no further than a familiar US Thanksgiving favourite, pumpkin pie, to understand how changing weather patterns can impact our business.

Rains ruin US pumpkin harvest

We rely on dozens of family farms in Illinois to produce Libby’s Pumpkin, which makes up 85% of the canned pumpkin eaten in the US However, this year our pumpkin harvest fell 50% short due to record spring rains in the country’s Midwest.

Pumpkins love sunlight, and in a normal sunny year, the harvest runs from late August through to late October or early November. However, this year the rains severely affected their growth. No sun, no pumpkins. Our most recent harvest ended on October 5, almost a month early. After we ship the last of our 2015 crop in early November, we’ll have no pumpkin to ship until the next harvest in August 2016.

What is Nestlé doing about it? While the heavy rains and subsequent impact on the 2015 pumpkin harvest may just be due to natural weather variations, and not the result of climate change, we’re one of many companies in the food industry increasing our efforts to both protect the environment and operate in a sustainable way.

How we’re reducing our footprint

Just like other Nestlé markets, we’re investing in ways to reduce our own footprint, and here in Nestlé USA we’ve made commitments on sustainably. We’re taking actions such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, striving to achieve zero waste for disposal, using energy and water more efficiently, and investing in renewable energy.

On October 19, Nestlé took part in the White House Summit on Climate and the Road through Paris with leaders from the government, private sector, academic, and scientific communities. This focused on our common efforts to tackle climate change here in the United States and globally.

We’ve also signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, joining more than 60 US companies to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to climate action and to voice support for a strong outcome to the COP21 Paris climate negotiations.

‘Doing right by the planet’

The momentum is building. We recently joined a coalition of leading food and beverage companies, coordinated by non-profit sustainability advocacy organisation Ceres, that pledged to accelerate business action on climate change, and urged world leaders to forge a robust international agreement in Paris. We’ve also pushed US Governors to accept the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

Although we are investing in new ways to reduce our own environmental impact, we are only one piece of the pumpkin pie. Doing right by the planet is Nestlé’s business, but we need to come together through collective action to bend the curve on climate change, and significantly change our world for the better.