“Moving to become carbon positive by 2025 is an ambitious and unprecedented goal for a dairy brand, but we are very excited and passionate to bring this issue forward and help lead the industry to adopt new standards,” Domenic Borrelli, president of premium dairy at Danone North America, told FoodNavigator-USA.
He explained that to achieve this goal Horizon Organic is investing in its farmers, adopting breakthrough regenerative soil and animal health practices and improving energy efficiency.
“We are investing in our network of over 600 family farmers across the country to help them with tools and capabilities to reach this goal with us by creating the Horizon Farmer Investment Fund,” Borrelli said. “The $15m fund will offer farmers low-cost and no-cost loans and grants to help with capital, training, tools and technology to improve the efficiency of their farms.”
The funds will be disbursed over the next 10 years at a rate of $1.5m annually to help farms adopt regenerative soil health practices that are outlined in Danone North America’s Soil Health Initiative to improve organic matter in soil, sequester carbon, improve yields, boost biodiversity and enhance water-holding capacity.
The funds also will go towards improving “cow care, feed and diet management to make sure our cows are healthy and happy, but also working to reduce methane gas that they produce,” Borrelli said.
Finally, he said, the funds will help farmers invest in energy management techniques that mirror Danone North America’s strategy to date, which includes using 100% renewable energy at its 13 owned manufacturing plants across the US through the purchase of renewable energy certificates.
A head start
Horizon Organic already is off and running towards its goal with the near completion a full lifecycle assessment with a panel of third-party experts, and an ongoing in-depth sustainability analysis with EcoPractices.
“The lifecycle assessment will look at things like tillage, crop rotation, manure management and other elements that we know will enable us to improve the health of our soil and its ability to retain water, improve our soil health generally and the soil’s ability to sequester carbon,” Borrelli said.
He added that the company also is working with the Carbon Trust to identify other activities and milestones to reach this goal, including certifying as carbon neutral the brand’s new Horizon Organic Growing Years, which is a half gallon whole milk product formulated for toddlers.
While Borrelli acknowledged that the learning curve on this process is “very steep,” he said Horizon Organic has “terrific partners, including the Organic Trade Association, the Carbon Trust and others who we are learning from and who are helping us find innovative new ways and opportunities to address the challenges that are ahead of us.".
With that in mind, he said, Horizon Organic is eager to share with others in the industry the lessons it has learned to help others in its supply chain and the broader industry follow in its footsteps.