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Corteva announces climate strategy on second anniversary

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PHOTO COURETESY OF CORTEVA

WILMINGTON On its second anniversary, Corteva Agriscience announced it would launch a climate strategy focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, working with farmers on integrating new technology and improving soil quality.

In its inaugural 2020 sustainability report, Corteva details its commitment to a 65% intensity reduction for scope 1 and 2 emissions, 20% intensity reduction for scope 3 emissions in business activities in the next decade. With this commitment, the company joins the global effort to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the level set in the Paris Agreement.

“Clearly there is a climate regenerative opportunity here where agriculture can really lead the way and that means we’re working with our customers to help protect the planet as we move forward,” Corteva CEO Jim Collins said in a press briefing  on Tuesday.

Agricultural chemical and seed company Corteva spun off from the short-lived  Dow-DuPont merger in 2019, and has 21,000 employees worldwide, although its workforce in Delaware is small and primarily limited to corporate offices as production sites are in the Midwest. The company is considered “pure-play,” meaning it does one line of business and does not have to fight for resources against related operations.

Corteva plans to reduce emissions through reducing energy usage, focusing on research and development, finding production efficiencies and transitioning to renewable energy sources.

“At the end of the day, this means that the solutions and the technology that we’re bringing to the farm gates, farmers can count on the fact that they are going to be aligned with what we do to push back against climate change,” Corteva  Agriscience Sustainability Leader Josiah McClellan said.

 “We’ve got the solutions with our technology to help farmers meet the demands of their customers for a climate-friendly, agriculture-positive commitment,” he added. “This is really focusing on our organization and how we align ourselves with what we offer.”

Corteva’s company portfolio is primarily divided into two segments: seed and crop protection. The seed portfolio is valued at $7.8 billion, with two-thirds focused on corn and soybean and 62% in the North America region. Crop protection  — or weed control, insect management and disease proof  — is valued at $6.5 billion, with the bulk of the business focused on insecticides.

Other goals outlined in Corteva’s sustainability report include providing training to 25 million farmers on soil health, nutrient and water stewardship, and productivity best practices by 2030; assisting farmers to boost crop yields by 20% while reducing emissions by 20%. 

Further initiatives include working with scores of wine-producing companies on a new approach to analyzing the diversity of organisms in the soil; developing technologies to keep nitrogen at the plant’s root rather than the groundwater; forming partnerships to advance biodiversity, among others.

While many big-business solutions to climate change have historically been met with skepticism from agriculture, Collins noted that it’s important for Corteva to walk the walk, while exploring new avenues for sustainability. Corteva plans to release a sustainability report each year to measure how it reaches each milestone.

“We have to show that we’re taking care of ourselves, and then we’re developing pilot programs where we can raise our growers

Corteva CEO James “Jim” Collins

that have already started this work,” Collins said. “The final area has to be focused on what’s going on in the world,  creating marketplaces for growers to tap into financial incentives to do what we’re talking about here. So then it’s not just an asset and a promise, it becomes an economic opportunity.”

Corteva also celebrated its second year of business, inking a multi-year global agreement with Elemental Enzymes earlier this week. The deal gives Corteva exclusive license to Waterflux technology, which is designed to aid crops in fighting conditions such as soil salinity, drought and adverse temperatures. The financial terms of the licensing agreement were not immediately made public.

“Things that can help in abiotic stress are all about yield and productivity, helping it protect itself and reducing the chemistry that’s applied to it,” Collins said. “When you yield more with less, it goes straight to these goals of driving productivity in a more sustainable way.”

Corteva’s first two years have been marked with a COVID-19 pandemic, historically wet and cold crop seasons and a rollercoaster commodities market, in addition to the earliest challenges of dividing from the Delaware legacy company DuPont.  But Collins notes that the early tribulations set Corteva to weather the great storm, able to meet shipments on time and maintain manufacturing in China and India.

“I’m really proud of the grit this team has demonstrated, the persistence of getting through this. The recovery has been uneven, but our markets in North America are recovering very quickly,” Collins said. “I know we have a lot of work to do to deliver a financial commitment, but as I sit here today I am hopeful. I do think we are carrying tremendous momentum into 2021.”

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