Focused on fostering biodiversity in rural Germany, Cargill helps a global customer achieve its sustainable sourcing ambitions.
Pollinating insects are extremely important to the environment and, in effect, the foods that grow in an ecosystem. In fact, bees and other pollinators are responsible for one out of every three bites of food that consumers eat. Poor pollination affects the entire food chain, driving up prices and threatening the reliable supply of crops like apples, nuts, grains, avocados, soybeans and broccoli. In the past few years, the world’s bee population has been shrinking, raising difficult questions about biodiversity, crop shortages and the future of food.
In Germany, the decreasing bee population led to less pollination across the country’s farmlands. In 2012, Cargill stepped in to help combat the problem, supporting the planting of 27 hectares of flower strips—a conservation measure that supported insect populations before and after crops have finished flowering. German farmers created strips of wildflowers between rapeseed (also known as canola) fields to provide food for insects, which helped to sustain pollination throughout the year.
Within months, the whole landscape saw positive changes: new habitats attracted bees to the area, which in turn pollinated the surrounding crops. Farmers predicted that the new activity would help boost pollination of other nearby crops as well. The idea was working, but it was only the beginning. Once the new rapeseed flowers had been planted, Cargill asked its supplier to explore more environmentally friendly ways to grow the rapeseed crop.
The request was part of an initiative between Cargill and Unilever, a global producer of personal care products and foods like margarine, to help Unilever downsize its environmental footprint. Collaborating with Unilever, Cargill pioneered the world’s very first verified sustainable rapeseed oil.
Cargill’s refineries in Germany now supply the oil to Unilever’s margarine facility in Pratau, helping the manufacturer achieve its sustainability goals. Today, the rapeseed flowers that bloom in Germany serve a second purpose: giving Germany a way to produce the main ingredient for margarine sustainably and on a large scale.
Cargill’s work with rapeseed in Germany has become a blueprint for farmer engagement on biodiversity. The collaboration has since evolved to eight crop teams around the globe, which have planted nearly 70 hectares of flower strips—an effort that is helping Unilever meet its goal of producing more products, more sustainably by the year 2020.