Viewpoints

Retailers should act on climate change

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In early May, the White House released its National Climate Assessment detailing ways climate change is already impacting the U.S. and what to expect in the future. One of the major topics in the report was agriculture.

Increased temperatures and variations in precipitation will greatly affect what America can grow. For example, the report forecasts sizeable reductions in yields of certain crops in California’s Central Valley over the next century.

“Climate change effects on agriculture will have consequences for food security, both in the U.S. and globally, through changes in crop yields and food prices and effects on food processing, storage, transportation and retailing,” researchers said in the report.

While supermarkets may not be directly involved in agriculture, food availability and pricing certainly has a major impact on their business. There is much the industry could do to take action on climate change and its effects.

Some retailers and growers are looking at alternative methods of food production. As recently reported in SN, the Whole Foods Market in Brooklyn, N.Y., has a rooftop greenhouse that supplies the store with greens, herbs and tomatoes.

In St. Paul, Minn., a company called Urban Organics grows greens and tilapia through aquaponics, a process that it says uses 2% of the water of traditional agriculture. Currently, Lund Food Holdings sells the products in a handful of area stores. (Look for that story in the next issue of SN.)


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On a much larger scale, Walmart has made significant strides in promoting sustainability across its supply chain, including in agriculture. Last month, the retailer held its first Sustainable Product Expo for suppliers, attended by top executives from Walmart, as well as Monsanto, Cargill, Kellogg Company and others.

Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon noted at the Expo that 90% of the retailer’s footprint comes from its supply chain. With that in mind, Walmart and event attendees outlined major sustainability commitments in the agricultural sector in everything from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to promoting better use of land and water.

“We collectively have the opportunity to make a very meaningful difference,” Kathleen McLaughlin, Walmart’s SVP of sustainability, said at the Expo.

While McLaughlin was speaking specifically about Walmart and its suppliers, the same holds true for the food retail industry as a whole. Sustainability in agriculture is not just a feel-good message for consumers — it’s a necessity for food retailers if they want to ensure they will still have products to sell in the future.

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Discuss this Blog Entry 1

Misterajs (not verified)
on May 12, 2014

How can Monsanto be a part of any discussion on sustainability. Other than sustainability of there profits thru control of GMO seeds that are dangerous and destructive to heirloom seeds.

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David Orgel

David Orgel is executive director, content & user engagement, of Supermarket News (SN) and its website, SupermarketNews.com. Orgel delivers his opinions on industry trends through a bi-weekly...

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Carol Angrisani is an associate editor at Supermarket News. Along with covering the packaged goods beat, she also manages SN’s annual private-label and ethnic marketing supplements. Carol...
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