New Technologies May Make it Easier to Monitor Sustainable Farming

Anna Gross reported late last month at The Financial Times Online that, “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.'”

The FT article noted that, “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.”

“One ambitious project is the UK’s Spatial Finance Initiative, established last year to explore ways of integrating geospatial data and analysis into financial decision-making. The idea is to use tiny satellites to take high-resolution images of every point on the planet every day, complemented by drone footage, with the resulting data automatically scanned and interpreted by artificial intelligence,” the article said.

Last month’s article added that, “Other organisations are developing tools to improve corporate transparency and reporting around a wide range of metrics relevant to food and agriculture groups, from soil types and biodiversity to greenhouse gas emissions and use of plastics.”

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