Consumer Pressure: Why a Huge U.S. Sustainability Alliance is Forged


We are continuously bombarded with news regarding evil corporations neglecting the climate changes on their journey towards increased revenue. However, where it comes to brands with consumer interaction the picture does not appear so dull.

Actually, not even the world’s largest companies can afford to fool their customers anymore. The world’s increased connectivity and constant news stream of scandals have left few people oblivious to the power tricks these companies continuously have exerted. Today’s consumers are enlightened with facts that were covered under the surface just a few years ago, and they sincerely care about sustainability and the health of themselves and their relatives.

In many European countries for instance, the climate change debate is heavily rooted in the minds of the population. There is increased concern and action at both the public and the individual level. During the last two years, ecological food has been seeing unprecedented growth, particularly in the wealthy Northern Europe with its great purchasing power and high environmental awareness. This is also true for some parts of the United States.

People are not only concerned with the environment anymore, they are concerned about themselves. Previously, you have oftentimes been hearing statements such as “what about our grandchildren?” whereas in the current debate “what about my children?” and “what about me?” have been applied more and more frequently.

There is an array of chemicals present in a lot of the food consumed today. Chemicals that disturb hormones, create deceases and are transferred to children through their parents. People in general have previously trusted the profit-hungry companies to provide them with food as cheaply as humanly possible. However, not until now have many individuals stopped and asked themselves: “how is this really possible, how can the food be so incredibly cheap”?

Consumers have been spoiled and mislead. Many people have been putting a large flat-screen, a fancy car or a fashionable pair of high-heels before their personal health. The mission has been a higher status in the community and a display of success. Now, several studies show that we are not as impressed with material things anymore. Together with leading an interesting life, the new status symbol is vigorous health.

Now, the companies are suddenly forced to listen. Green Biz recently broke the news that companies such as General Mills, Kellogg’s, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Cargill are now teaming up in order to make U.S. cash crops more sustainable. These are commodity crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, rice and potatoes, which have been subjected to a storm of criticism for negatively impacting water, land, animals and end-consumers.

The multinationals are part of Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture which comprises 66 grower organizations at the moment. According to Sustainable Brands, the alliance is focusing on six key areas:

  1. Sustained reduction in soil erosion to tolerable levels or below on all U.S. cropland.

  2. Sustained improvement of land use efficiency by increasing productivity on U.S. cropland, conserving native habitat, and enhancing landscape quality.

  3. Sustained contribution to solving regional water quality problems as evidenced by reductions in sediment, phosphorus, nitrogen and pesticide loads from U.S. cropland.

  4. Sustained reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. cropland per unit of output.

  5. Sustained contribution to solving regional water scarcity problems through continual improvement in irrigation water use efficiency and conservation.

  6. Sustained improvement in energy use efficiency from U.S. crop production.

The goal is to improve agricultural practices for 20 percent of U.S. commodity crop production on 50 million acres by 2020. One might of course wonder if this actual target will be met or if it is all window dressing. However, there is a huge effort in itself to gather the members so there ought to be some substance in the initiative.

Evidentially consumers today hold a great amount of power in their hands and multinationals are feeling the pressure to adjust to the world’s informed population. The Alliance promises to involve the whole supply chain in meeting the target, which is obviously a good thing. The remaining question is how many years from now we will see a similar transformative pressure from SMEs and B2B businesses as we have now witnessed from consumers.


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