Bayer: Diminishing Carbon Emissions in Agriculture
Twenty years ago, pharmaceutical company Bayer, signed a commitment to protecting the environment. CleanTech News looks into their sustainable success today.
In 2000, when the concerns of climate change were a fraction of what they are today, The United Nations invited companies to sign up to the Global Compact.
The Global Compact comprised of ten principles, which focused on areas such as human rights, labour standards, environmental protection and the fight against corruption.
Bayer, the pharmaceutical company behind such household brands as Aspirin™, Canesten™, Iberogast™ and Rennie™, was one of the first companies to sign up.
In the two decades since, Bayer has committed to fight against bribery, guarantee fair labour and elevate human rights, but it is the environment, where Bayer has made the most progress in regards to the Global Compact.
If the emission of greenhouse gases continue at their present rate, the temperature of our planet is expected to rise. Scientists tell us a mere 1.5 degrees would be catastrophic: ice caps will melt and thus sea levels will surge. The amount of land for humans to live (and farm) on, will shrink, putting our already densely populated planet at risk of famine.
Bayer is aware that some of its business components are adding to emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen oxide, all of which accelerate climate change. But by 2030, Bayer plans to be carbon-neutral. To do this, the company plans to move to 100% renewable energy.
Farmers at the beginning of the Bayer supply chain are also being encouraged to move towards a carbon neutral future: using climate-smart tools and practices which help to decrease greenhouse gasses from being emitted.
Agriculture, the science of farming, includes the growing of crops, as well as the domestication of animals for meat and dairy, which accounts for 24% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.
There are over one billion cows on the planet, all of which naturally emit the greenhouse gas methane, as well as millions of fuelled farming apparatus used to produce the food.
The worldwide transportation of supplies also contributes to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as seasonal products travel across the sea. But by 2030, Bayer plans to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from their farmers by 30%.
Bayer is working to produce superior solutions for weed-control, which will allow farmers to reduce the practice of tilling: when tractors are used to prepare the land for seeds. Doing so will create a huge reduction in the fossil fuel emissions of the vehicles used. Furthermore, untilled soil is more able to store carbon.
One adverse effect of animal agriculture, is that to meet the demand for meat and dairy, farmers need more land for the animals to graze on.
In order to vacate land, trees can be cut or burned down, which leads to an increase in carbon-dioxide emissions and a reduction in the levels of oxygen produced.
This practice gained attention in Brazil in 2019, as deliberate forest fires which devastated indigenous communities were internationally condemned. Bayer stood against this, by signing up to the “Brazilian Coalition for climate, forest and agriculture”, which encourages the protection of Brazilian rainforests.
The company works with farmers, helping them to utilise their land in the most productive ways, including cordoning off land to preserve animal sanctuaries, instead of using it for farming.
Whilst Bayer is on target, it has already achieved a great deal of recognition for its commitment to the climate.
International ratings non-profit CDP, also known as the “Carbon Disclosure Project” annually reviews public corporate data relating to the climate and creates a ranking.
The CDP has consistently declared Bayer to be a leader in sustainability, awarding it an A in the climate category. Out of 8,000 companies, only 2% achieved this rating.
In addition to this, CDP, rated Bayer with a top score of “A”, for its commitment to water security. Bayer assists farmers in implementing adequate irrigation and is studying how to help seeds grow on less water.
Furthermore, international rating agency, EcoVadis, has awarded Bayer the Gold level for company-wide sustainability management. This is Bayer’s third Gold level rating and places Bayer in the top 5% of all companies assessed.
EcoVadis examines the sustainability performance of companies in four categories, to which Bayer scored 75/100: Environment, Labor & Human Rights, Fair Business Practices & Ethics, and Sustainable Procurement.
But even with such achievements and recognition, Bayer is not slowing down. The company is now focusing on how to help seeds continue growing in climates that suffer from severe flooding.