TORONTO — Efforts to promote regenerative agriculture were a highlight in the 2022 sustainability report from McCain Foods. The potato products manufacturer tracked progress on farming and water use while singling out scope 3 CO2 emissions as an area that needs more attention.
McCain in 2021 set a commitment to implement regenerative agriculture practices across 100% of its potato acreage by 2030. Last year it introduced the McCain Regenerative Agriculture Framework, which offers a pathway to progress and a guide for farmers to support their adoption of regenerative practices. In June the company launched Farm of the Future Africa as part of its broader Farm of the Future initiative, which also includes a site in Canada. The project enables McCain to trial sustainable practices, techniques and technologies that may be implemented across its broader grower network in the future.
Nearly 40% of the company’s global potato volume is grown in communities that are identified as medium-to-high water stress. The ongoing rollout of drip irrigation helped improve water-use efficiency in those water-stressed regions by 11% in 2022, according to the report. The company also met its goal of increasing its use of water stress-tolerant potato varieties by 20%. Approximately a fifth of the potato crops grown for McCain were water-stress tolerant in 2022, up 4% from a 2017 baseline.
While potatoes overall have one of the lowest carbon footprints across all food categories, the company acknowledged it will need to step up efforts to meet its goal of reducing on-farm emissions by 25% by 2030. Solutions around fertilizer production and transportation — which account for a combined 38% of the company’s on-farm carbon footprint — will be key to meeting the goal, according to the report.
The company is taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond the farm, too. In 2022 it reduced scope 1 and scope 2 CO2 emissions by 6% versus 2017 levels. It also delivered a 17% reduction in emissions intensity, driven by a 6% improvement in energy efficiency and by a switch to cleaner energy sources.
The company has committed to a 30% intensity reduction in scope 3 emissions by 2030. Scope 3 emissions are indirect emissions that occur because of a company’s operations but are not produced by the company itself. The report drew attention to the significant challenges McCain has faced in collecting reliable data from suppliers and cited the standardization of scope 3 emissions data collection as a key priority for 2023.“The escalating climate and nature crises illustrate the fragility of our global food system with wide-reaching impact on consumers, growers, the land and communities,” said Max Koeune, president and chief executive officer of McCain Foods. “We believe agriculture can and must be transformed to safeguard our future and we are encouraged by the progress we are seeing in our sustainability journey. While much work remains, we are determined to continue to advance on our commitments.”