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Monsanto aims for 'carbon neutrality'

Monsanto, a global agricultural company headquartered in St. Louis, says it is taking a leadership role as the sector deals with climate change.

Monsanto plans to make all operations carbon neutral by 2021.

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Credit St. Louis Public Radio
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Monsanto has already implemented many of the procedures outlined in the carbon neutrality plan.

Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant says essentially the company wants all of its systems to store, offset or sequester as much carbon as they release.

“When the beginning and the end match up and you are at net-neutrality, that’s the definition of a good day, I think.”

The company’s plan focuses on three areas: seed production, crop protection and data sharing. The effort has been in the works for nearly a decade and the announcement coincides with a climate change conference underway in Paris.

“Paris is maybe a starting point,” says Grant.

“I’m much more focused on what happens beyond Paris and how we measure this year-by-year.”

Grant says he understands some people could be skeptical about the company’s goal, which even he describes as ambitious.

But he says he'll stand by the data the program will produce over the years.

“For the cynics - as we do this and report publicly every year, we’ll start to drive believers as well.”

Grant says the carbon neutrality plan amounts to Monsanto's opening statement in a global climate change conversation.
Credit Monsanto
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Grant says the carbon neutrality plan amounts to Monsanto's opening statement in a global climate change conversation.

Even though Monsanto has been working on approaches to carbon neutrality for several years, the announcement follows a trend in the global corporate community.

Many companies, including Mars Incorporated, Kellogg Company and Unilever, have agreed to move more swiftly to deal with climate change.

Many signed a letter published earlier this year in The Washington Post and Financial Times.

And the White House has pushed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, which has been signed by more than 150 companies so far.

Those employers have set goals that include a 50 percent reduction in emissions and an 80 percent drop in water usage.

At least one researcher says he believes the corporate attitude to just announce a commitment is a significant step forward.

Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University Deputy Director David Lobell tells the Associated Press it’s important for any major company to strive toward carbon neutrality.

He says the announcements, including the plan set out by Monsanto, amount to positive steps, even if they don’t have much impact in addressing climate change.

(The Monsanto Fund is a contributor to St. Louis Public Radio. News judgments are made independently by St. Louis Public Radio.)

Copyright 2015 St. Louis Public Radio

Wayne Pratt is a veteran journalist who has made stops at radio stations, wire services and websites throughout North America. He comes to St. Louis Public Radio from Indianapolis, where he was assistant managing editor at Inside Indiana Business. Wayne also launched a local news operation at NPR member station WBAA in West Lafayette, Indiana, and spent time as a correspondent for a network of more than 800 stations. His career has included positions in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Toronto, Ontario and Phoenix, Arizona. Wayne grew up near Ottawa, Ontario and moved to the United States in the mid-90s on a dare. Soon after, he met his wife and has been in the U.S. ever since.
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