Governments around the globe have set out ambitious strategies to address sustainability in their nations, though few would have as much impact as China. President Xi Jinping recently referred to China’s current period, as the era of ecological civilisation (shengtai wenming), where nature is integral to human existence, rather than a resource to be exploited. It is the foundation of the Beautiful China Initiative, the country’s sustainable development agenda.
Since 2017, and after a successful Annual Event in Beijing, SAI Platform has developed a steady presence in China. From the first Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) verification in 2018 to now, over 300 farms have used the FSA with more than 15 crops, including corn, apple, soybean, clover and bamboo shoot. As SAI Platform gains more traction in China, the need for support is growing too. This is where SAI Platform’s new representatives in China, Isabel Nepstad and Han Zhan of BellaTerra come in.
Isabel Nepstad has made China her home for over 10 years. She is a sustainability expert with extensive experience in agriculture and food systems. Nepstad has worked for NGOs and multinationals in the USA, Brazil and China. Her work centres on guiding organisations in their drive to tackle sustainability and deforestation.
Han Zhan is an agriculture expert with a strong technical background in sustainability systems, best practices, and agronomic research. Han Zhan has worked extensively with the Chinese government and international NGOs, predominantly engaging with smallholder farmers on sustainability practices. Han Zhan’s impressive list of accomplishments includes the role out of China’s first certification for responsible soybean, and the adaptation of GLOBALG.A.P. for Chinese users.
BellaTerra’s diverse clients include government and policy makers, global and local companies and NGOs. The World Economic Forum, Trase, RTRS, and Cargill are among them.
China’s giant ambitions
Han Zhan points out that this is critical when considering the reach of China: “China is the world’s largest developing country, with fast economic growth and huge product and consumer markets that span the globe. It is vital that these markets are sustainable. As an organisation with a diverse usership across the world, SAI Platform is well positioned to serve the Chinese market.”
Nepstad has noticed that companies and farmers can be overwhelmed by the different approaches that make up sustainability.
“We are seeing a lot of emphasis in the sector on circular agriculture and regenerative agriculture – we’re faced with the question of how to align these different terms. It’s a great moment for SAI Platform to be that source of alignment and to further develop its presence in China.”
As government outlines bold, leading policies to tackle sustainability issues, Nepstad and Han Zhan hope that SAI Platform can help to make these ambitions more relevant and attainable for local companies.
As Nepstad sees it: “The companies and local and subnational governments need technical capability and support. For this they are looking to international standards and expertise to guide their implementation. So, it’s terrific that SAI Platform was developed by the companies and the industry itself. Delivering detailed technical expertise will be highly valuable, especially to small- and medium-sized companies that supply larger multinationals.”
SAI Platform’s soon to be released Mandarin translation of the FSA Implementation Framework, Self-Assessment Questionnaire and the Continuous Improvement Module, will make using the FSA easier for users in China.
A lively Chinese SAI Platform community
Nepstad and Han Zhan have been impressed by the energy that the Chinese SAI Platform community is showing. WeChat, a messaging app, hosts a group of FSA users and stakeholders in China and currently has over 150 members. The members typically connect through the group to share experiences or ask questions of other members. BellaTerra plan to share questions on the group to gather feedback on what the community want to focus on and where they need support.
“We are excited to see this community grow by setting up working groups, conducting site visits, hosting training events, and feeding back to Chinese members through annual reports and newsletters. We want SAI Platform to become an important influence for a wider range of stakeholders and institutions in China, and that an even greater array of agricultural products will see the value in using SAI Platform tools and systems” says Han Zhan.
If you would like to contact Isabel Nepstad and Han Zhan, you can email them on:
Isabel Nepstad: firstname.lastname@example.org
Han Zhan: email@example.com