Thrive for future generations
Aspiration: Australia’s grains industry remains a global leader in sustainability, for people, the planet and our long-term ability to farm.
Growers care deeply about the environment and are already leaders in efficiency of resource use. However, community expectations and our climate are changing. The grains industry must keep ahead of these changes and use science to progress our ability to accurately measure the sustainability and environmental performance of our industry and support responsible stewardship.
Sustainability encapsulates the enduring legacy of GRDC’s purpose: farming for our people and our planet into the future.
Often referred to as the ‘triple bottom line’, sustainability encompasses the environment, people and their businesses*. It expands thinking to consider the long-term repeatability of results across seasons and the impacts we have on the environment and others. Society reasonably expects safe, sustainable and responsible agricultural production. RD&E should support resilient and profitable farming systems and communities which value and preserve natural resources, ensure access to capital and markets and uphold the industry’s reputation and trust within the wider community.
Sustainability investment by GRDC extends beyond this pillar, with direct sustainability benefits delivered through numerous projects across the broader portfolio. Development of new, non-chemical pest control options or more efficient use of water, energy, and nutrient inputs as examples of long-term GRDC investment in this area.
Sustainability is quickly becoming the new normal, underpinned by four drivers:
Source: Four key drivers of sustainability18
Access to capital
In 2019, funds based on ESG-themes pulled in a record-breaking US $20.6bn
Mandatory disclosure of climate risk by publicly listed entities in NZ, UK and Hong Kong
Canola growers selling into the EU must meet sustainability requirements for market access
6 in 10 consumers are willing to change shopping habits to reduce environmental impact
Sustainable, responsible production systems
Knowing the true environmental footprint of Australian grain supply chains can help to identify what more can be done to protect nature, air, soil and water. Progressing the ability to report sustainability and environmental performance of farm businesses and the broader grains industry easily and accurately should be accelerated. Underpinning science is required to better define and quantify the impact of different farming systems or practices on both financial and non-financial performance measures, including natural capital and biodiversity.
RD&E should help growers, advisers and industry sort through the complexity of carbon accounting, sequestration and the myriad of different tools available to inform what growers can practically do to profitably build soil organic carbon and reduce green-house gas emissions intensity. Opportunities also exist to improve growers’ understanding of the market drivers and emerging opportunities in ecosystem services and support a shift to renewable technologies.
People are at the heart of sustainability, from their role in the paddock through to being consumers. Addressing the changing needs and expectations of society requires a co-ordinated effort by many to help support the resilience, adaptability and health of communities and the industry’s future.
Regional communities and farm business are changing as a result of increased scale, adoption of technology and centralisation of populations. The decisions growers make on-farm have increasingly greater consequences for their business. Working with others, targeted RD&E can help to
better understand and manage workforce challenges, improve farm safety and build the skill of growers to manage complex businesses.
Investment across the agricultural sector to support social licence will be critical to ongoing access to technologies and long-term ability to farm. Understanding and engaging more effectively with consumers around shared values and concerns will be important to continue to build and maintain trust.
* The portfolio of investments against this strategic pillar is focused upon impacts on planet and people. The economic element of sustainability is captured primarily through investment against other strategic pillars. GRDC's investment in sustainability will be captured through impact reporting at a whole portfolio level.
18. KPMG (2022). The time is now. The Australian Agricultural Sustainability Framework (AASF) and its role in sustainable
supply chains. https://nff.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/NFF_AASF-Report_v15_sml.pdf