08 October 2020

High-tech tools shine a light on sustainable farming

sustainable farming

In late July, Nordea Asset Management, which controls assets worth $230bn, excluded the Brazilian meat behemoth JBS from its portfolio following a flurry of scandals, ranging from corruption to allegations about deforestation and slavery in its supply chain.

But decisions like these are rare, not least because impact investors — who want their money to bring about social and environmental benefits — often have limited tools at their disposal to work out whether companies are meeting sustainability commitments. They face multiple hurdles, from inconsistent definitions of what constitutes responsible behaviour to opaque supply chains. 

The sheer geographical reach and complexity of the food and agriculture sector only add to these problems. “Good metrics to measure how humans relate to land are hard to come by,” says Dominic Hofstetter, director of capital and investment at EU environmental agency EIT Climate-KIC. “We’re flying blindly in many respects.”

Visibility, however, is about to improve. A rising tide of new technologies promises to make it easier to monitor which companies are honouring their commitments on responsible land use, emissions reductions and human rights.