Achieving carbon neutrality through innovative research and development

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Plant-based foods and beverages have a strong reputation related to sustainability, thanks largely to the crops used to develop the ingredients used in such products. Companies and organizations across the value chain believe the sector can go further, though, taking the production of plant-based foods and beverages from sustainable to fully carbon neutral.

“Carbon neutrality is one of four pillars for us,” Lovingly Made Ingredients General Manager Chris Shields said. “The first thing we’re planning to do is we wanted to offset all of our emissions this year … so we’ll essentially be pretty close to net zero.”

The company is making impressive strides in each of their four pillars, which also include land use, water and conservation. In the area of conservation, for example, they’re making steps to achieve their goal to restore five per cent of their suppliers’ farmland to its natural state by increasing yield and protein content of the commodities they grow.

The carbon neutrality pillar has seen some of their most significant achievement, however. While the company expects their facility to be close to net zero carbon emissions by the end of 2021, there are also plans to continue their carbon neutrality work outside of that goal. The largest involve their partners and suppliers, who they hope will take on similar work.

In particular, Shields said, Lovingly Made Ingredients is aiming for a set of standards related to sustainability across the company’s partners, to ensure carbon neutrality and other goals are being met.

“The core of it will be with the suppliers,” Shields said. “It’s great to do these things, but how do you find the right partners from a certification point of view? We base all of our decisions on ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ But I think, certainly, more frameworks around this would be helpful, or at least a standard.”

This collaborative approach to achieving carbon neutrality isn’t unique to Lovingly Made Ingredients. Pulse Canada, which represents the country’s pulse farmers, processors and exporters, also believes that the only true way to achieve carbon neutrality across the plant-based food, feed and ingredients sector is to have everyone along the value chain working together.

Pulse Canada is primarily focused on spreading the message behind the carbon-neutral benefits of pulses, in particular, as an ingredient. This involves ensuring applicable research is being conducted, spreading the resulting data to the right people, then ensuring the messaging behind that data is being spread consistently, clearly and by a community of voices.

One particularly important message is how much carbon pulses displace across Canada each year.

“To date, the sector as a whole probably displaces what we would call a mega-tonne,” Pulse Canada Director of Sustainability Denis Tremorin said. “A million tonnes of carbon [per year] is what we’re displacing as an industry.”

Regardless of which crop a company or organization focuses on, striving toward carbon neutrality goals helps not only its own business success, but that of the sector as a whole. Shields and Tremorin both stressed the importance of small impacts, including research and partnerships, making a big difference, leading to Canada becoming a global leader in the plant-based food, feed and ingredients space.

“Canada can get ahead of a lot of the world in this space. Having data that’s robust, representative and of high quality in this area is something that we can do very well,” Tremorin said. “Collaboration is the other one that’s going to be key—working with as many partners as you can that are like-minded.”