Projects, Partnerships and Innovation in a year like no other. Part 2.

2nd June 2021

***This interview is an extract of the SAI Platform Annual Report 2020. Go to the Annual Report 2020.***

The events of 2020 did not prevent the Crops Working Group from forging ahead and introducing three ambitious new workstreams to better enable collaboration and achieve greater impact.

Martina Henry is Co-Chair of the Crops Working Group and Global Head of Sustainable Sourcing at Diageo. She became Co-Chair of the Crops Working Group in January 2020.

How does it feel to be Co-Chair of the Crops Working Group?

It’s a great honour to work with such a fantastic group of people and companies. The Crops Working Group is fast-growing and dynamic. It’s fair to say that while some members are highly active, others are less so and as Co-Chair, I’m keen to help the less active members to also have a voice and contribute. By doing this we will make our collective knowledge even more powerful and multiply the impact of our mutual efforts.

How did you become a member of the Crops Working Group?

Diageo joined SAI Platform in 2015 and having previously worked with SAI Platform and the Crops Working Group, I became the main Diageo contact in my role as Sustainable Agriculture Manager. Apart from providing a space to learn from, and engage with peers, Diageo have chosen to work with SAI Platform in order to amplify the impact of our individual efforts through industry collaboration and avoid duplicating effort.

It also means we share a consistent narrative with growers and food producers. They then have the confidence to invest in farming practices that drive sustainable on-farm impact while making sure their market access is supported by multiple buyers. This is enormously important for us because it means we can source sustainably even if we’re not the biggest buyer of a crop or ingredient.

Learning first-hand how the FSA works in practice is a great help as we roll out our sustainable agriculture programme across our supply chain. We’re also helping to drive engagement and adoption of the FSA to further drive sustainable practices and industry alignment.

How did COVID-19 impact the work of the Crops Working Group this year?

In fact, online meetings have enabled a greater level of engagement from the membership than we would generally enjoy at physical meetings under normal circumstances due to member’s resource and time constraints. We’ve had excellent numbers joining webinars and meetings, and I think we’ve all had to adapt to life with Zoom and figuring out new ways to work effectively together despite the physical barriers!

We’ve also developed some exciting new workstreams to help promote greater value for members from both their SAI Platform and Crops Working Group memberships, hopefully providing the opportunity for all members to contribute and have their voice heard. The workstreams are in their infancy right now but we’re hoping to kick off with specific deliverables and outputs throughout 2021 and beyond.

How has working with Brian been?

Brian is a terrific guy with a lot of energy…and patience!  Ingredion, who Brian works for, is an ingredients company, while Diageo produced finished goods. They’re B2B, we’re both B2B and B2C. So, we have different perspectives which hopefully reflect those of the broader membership.  We also have quite different approaches and personalities, so we tend to keep Jenny quite busy with our respective points of view!

Resilience has been the watchword for 2020. How has this applied to the Crops Working Group?

Within Crops, I’d say resilience has come down to pivoting to online meetings and coming together more often in a virtual space rather than a physical one. It’s important to remember that the climate and social issues we’re all concerned about didn’t cease because we all started working at home! Because of the passion that people who typically work in our field bring to their roles, we’ve all been determined to adapt and think differently to pursue our goals.

Do you think attitudes to climate have changed this year?

Though climate change is without doubt a major driver behind a lot of global issues and our ambition, it’s important to remember that the issues are not solely environmentally linked, but there is a holistic approach required to address the interconnected social and economic challenges facing humanity as well. 

What we value about SAI Platform and the FSA is that they are not just concerned with environmental issues in an isolated way, but rather approach solutions towards a more holistic approach to farm management at a landscape level, and how best to create the industry-wide reach and scale necessary to realise the change that is required – that is the real challenge we face for the next 10 years!