Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at the Natural Products Expo West trade show earlier this month, Chris Kerston, director of market engagement at the Savory Institute, explained: “For decades we have been talking about sustainability, and sustainability is all about how do we do the least amount of bad.
"We finally got to a tipping point where we have enough consumers and brands realizing that … we can actually heal the earth by buying these products that are making the land better as a result of how they are managed to be produced,”
To help manufacturers source ingredients that improve the land and consumers identify products that are regenerative, the Savory Institute created the Land to Market verification program, which Kerston says is “all about measuring outcomes on the land … so that we can quantify what actually happens” and ensure improvement.
Measurements will include the amount of carbon sequestered, increases in wildlife populations, improvements in biology and habitats, the amount of solar energy captured and water recycled, he said.
“All of that gets rolled up into a score and we trend that score over time” with the goal of moving farmers and ranchers to a “net positive category to where the land is healing year over year,” he said.
In addition to helping farmers and ranchers improve their land, Savory Institute’s Land to Market verification program also will help connect producers to manufacturers, Kerston said.
“The number one thing we hear from producers is. ‘We just don’t know how to find the brands that want this product, and then, more importantly, I don’t know how to get it to them,’” Kerston said. “So, the value proposition for them is really these connections to start working collectively on supply chain issues.”
For its part, the Savory Institute will work with investors to identify and address gaps in the supply chain, such as building additional processing centers or investing in chill chain technology to help transport better-for-the-earth ingredients to companies that want them, Kerston added.
The program also offers participating brands benefits beyond a warm fuzzy feeling, Kerston said.
He explained that by participating in the program, brands will improve their standing in consumers’ and investors’ eyes and earn their support and loyalty as a result.
1 billion hectares of regenerative land
The Savory Institute’s Land to Market certification might just be starting out, but it has a “big, hairy, audacious goal” to impact 1 billion hectares of land by 2025.
“It is a huge goal. It is one-fifth of the world’s grasslands, but that is what we think the tipping point is to see climate change start going the opposite direction, and see it actually start healing,” Kerston said.
It is also the point at which, he said, “food and water security [will] start to become a reality for everybody and global poverty will start to decrease.”
To reach this goal, the Savory Institute has create a hub system in which regional outposts will work with ranchers and farmers to provide training, entrepreneurial incubation and work with researchers and policy makers to remove barriers, Kerston said.
He explained that the institute needs about 100 hubs to reach its goal, which is a “big task, but we are on track at this point.”
To help stay on track, Kerston encourages those who are interested in starting a hub or working with an existing hub in their area to apply to join and become a part of the solution.