Sustainable Agriculture - Environmental Defense Fund Supply Chain Solutions Center

Sustainable Agriculture

A growing population = more food, more water and more strain on the environment

The modern supply chain is responsible for 60 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, 80 percent of all water use and 66 percent of all tropical deforestation. Take a closer look and you’ll find that agriculture contributes to all of these impacts. A growing population demands more food and water, leading to a strain on the environment. Agricultural production — when in concert with the environment — can benefit the environment by providing habitat, filtering water and mitigating emissions.

This also means that there are massive financial opportunities for companies serving these growing demands. However, in order to have a thriving company, you must also have a thriving environment. Companies are facing risks in their agricultural supply chains like never before, as climate change affects weather patterns, which affects crop production. Not to mention, numerous studies prove that your customers, investors and employees care about how you act on environmental sustainability. Therefore, addressing climate change is necessary for your company’s longevity and reputation.

In working with companies along the consumer product supply chain, EDF and other NGO experts have discovered several solutions to help agricultural supply chains become more sustainable. In order to implement these strategies, companies must find opportunities for improvement both internally and externally. Many sustainable agriculture solutions require engaging along the supply chain. Look through the categories below to find the solutions for your biggest agriculture challenges.

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Explore Sustainable Agriculture

Crop Production

Producing crops is critical to sustaining a society. Row crops, like corn, wheat and soy, feed humans and animals, and can be turned into a variety of inputs to many of the foods we find on the shelves at our grocery stores. Specialty crops, like vegetables, fruits and tree nuts also find their way to our markets. Regardless of the food you are selling or your place in the supply chain, it is likely that it started with initial crop ingredients.

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Animal Agriculture

Raising animals for food has both positive and negative impacts on the environment. We want supply chains to minimize the negative impacts and reinforce the positive role of animal agriculture.

View All Animal Agriculture Resources

Product Design

Look back here in the future as we explore how food products are being produced or created in a way that requires fewer inputs. This section will include work with food scientists and with the teams that source agricultural raw materials.

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Look back here in the future as we explore plant-based packaging materials.

View All Packaging Resources

Measuring & Reporting

New technologies and methodologies are making data collection, analysis and sharing simpler, faster and more effective. This provides key information back to farmers and to stakeholders throughout the supply chain. Measuring and reporting should help your supply chain partners, like farmers, tell their story better to consumers, who are asking for more information about how their food is produced.

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Stakeholder Engagement

Understanding the motivations of different groups involved in your supply chain is a challenge, but can go a long way when showing how your sustainable agriculture goals are relevant and beneficial to them!

View All Stakeholder Engagement Resources


In the absence of strong federal action, there’s an opportunity for states and municipalities to lead by incentivizing conservation agriculture. Many farm and industry groups are speaking publicly on ways policy can improve farm profitability and resilience.

View All Policy Resources

Business Case

The business case for your sustainability plan is a crucial step for creating internal buy-in and unlocking the necessary resources to implement your sustainable agriculture supply chain plan.

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The Sustainable Agriculture section currently focuses on solutions within the U.S. that may be adapted to crop production internationally. If you are sourcing beef, palm or soy from outside the U.S., please see our Thriving Forests section.

View All Sourcing Resources

Where are you on the sustainability journey?

When it comes to corporate sustainability, companies usually fall into three categories — beginner, “middle-miler” and leader. Our “Engage” section will help companies get informed on the issues, understand the landscape (both internally and externally) and start assessing areas of opportunity. Those who are in the “middle miles” of implementation — that nitty gritty period between setting a sustainability goal and achieving it — will find resources in our “Execute” section helpful. For the companies that are well on their way to meeting sustainability goals, our "Lead" section offers ways for companies to use their influence to engage proactively on policy and to encourage others to step up.

Access our Journey guides
Sustainable Agriculture Resources

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Main Library

Sustainable Agriculture Resources

Looking for solutions that are uniquely relevant to you and your company? Here you can filter by resource title, date, type. Below (left) you can filter by narrowing categories and sub-categories, as well as where each resource sits within different levels of the sustainability journey.

Filter Library




Poultry Sustainability Guide

A user-friendly how-to guide with best practices and actionable solutions that the poultry industry can use now on the farm or in the plant.



The Sustainability Journey

Get your company started on the sustainability journey here! From overviews and introductions to advocating for policy, and everything in between, this is where you should start.



Sustainable agriculture 101: introduction

Companies are facing risks in their agricultural supply chains like never before, as climate change affects weather patterns, which affects crop production. Your customers, investors and employees care about how you act on environmental sustainability.



Sustainable agriculture 101: problem & solutions

All the essentials on the impacts and opportunities within animal agriculture, crop production, product design, packaging, measuring and reporting, key stakeholders and the policy environment.



Sustainable agriculture 101: strategies

Many sustainable agriculture solutions require engaging along the supply chain: animal agriculture, crop production, product design, packaging, measuring and reporting, key stakeholders and the policy environment.



Sustainable agriculture 101: understand landscape

When mitigating agricultural impacts from your supply chain, there are many stakeholders — both inside and outside of your company — that you may need or want to engage.



Assess impact & opportunity: agriculture

One of the first steps to making your agricultural supply chain more sustainable is mapping it out, starting with inputs.



Identify stakeholders: agriculture

Depending on the organizational structure of your company and the structure of your supply chains, there may be many stakeholders that you’ll need to communicate with about sustainable agriculture.



Set goals & objectives: agriculture

If your company is new to the concept of sustainable agriculture, there are many resources to help you set meaningful goals for your agricultural supply chains.



Identify pilot projects: agriculture

Before committing to a huge project on sustainable agriculture, you’ll want to try out a few pilot projects to ensure that your hypotheses are correct about key stakeholders and levers in your supply chain.



The business case: agriculture

These resources will help you in crafting your business case for engaging in sustainable agriculture. Remember, all parts of the chain will need to result in benefits – either financial or social – from participating in these solutions.



Carbon accounting 101

A guide to corporate carbon accounting, including definitions of scopes 1, 2 and 3 emissions, companies that have set scope 3 goals, and initiatives you can turn to for help doing the same.



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