Did you know that in addition to being experts in controlled environment agriculture (CEA), Local Bounti is also a leader in sustainability? Local Bounti exhibits exceptional ESG performance, directly addressing over one-half of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Our Vice President of Strategy, Gary Gilbert, who is a certified Global Reporting Initiative reporter, is responsible for developing and implementing Local Bounti’s sustainability program, ensuring that we are a world leader in sustainable and efficient CEA.
So what are the sustainable development goals (SDGs)? In 2015, all U.N. Member States, which includes the United States, adopted a 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. At the core of this agenda were 17 SDGs, “an urgent call to action by all countries – developed and developing.” These 17 goals are meant to advise companies and their nations on how to best run their businesses in a way that will address key issues from hunger and climate change to racial inequality, health and education, with an ultimate goal that all people across the globe can enjoy peace and prosperity by the year 2030.
The 17 SDGs follow a long-standing principle first spoken by Aristotle that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” In other words, 1+1=3. Each of the goals, and actions associated with achieving them, therefore affects the outcomes of the others; they build upon one another, rather than stand to be achieved individually. The SDGs ask for a balance of environmental, social and economic sustainability.
2020 was an incredibly challenging year for the planet that reversed much of the progress previously achieved toward fulfilling the U.N.’s 17 SDGs. António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, notes in the SDG 2020 Report, “Although the novel coronavirus affects every person and community, it does not do so equally. Instead, it has exposed and exacerbated existing inequalities and injustices… Far from undermining the case for the SDGs, the root causes and uneven impacts of COVID-19 demonstrate precisely why we need the 2030 Agenda… At the start of this Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs, I call for renewed ambition, mobilization, leadership and collective action.”
What are some of the key findings of the 2020 report? As you can imagine, the world is off-track to end poverty by 2030. COVID-19 resulted in the first increase in global poverty in decades. Over 71 million people, the 2020 report notes, were pushed into extreme poverty in 2020. Food insecurity was already increasing prior to the pandemic, with nearly 26% of the population affected by moderate or severe food insecurity at the end of 2019, an increase of ~60 million people since 2014. Small-scale food producers already facing challenges were only hit harder as a result of the pandemic when local markets were forced to close, and they could not get their products to consumers safely.
Maintaining a high-quality, safe and consistent food supply is only becoming a greater challenge. The U.N. notes that investments in agriculture, relative to its contribution to the economy, continue to decline. The 2020 Report concludes that “public investment in agriculture can enhance productivity, attract private investment and help reduce poverty and hunger.” The findings also show that there remain substantial gaps in assessing progress toward the sustainable goals and thus investments in “data and innovation are key to responding to the crisis and to supporting SDG acceleration.”
Local Bounti is actively addressing the world’s dire sustainability challenges. A rare breed, Local Bounti adheres to 10 of the 17 UN Sustainability Development Goals.
Public equity investors are investing in sustainable leaders, specifically those companies that follow superior environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards, more than ever before. The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investments’ (U.S. SIF) Biennial Trend Report from November 2020, concluded that sustainable investing assets now account for 1 in every 3 dollars of total U.S. assets under professional management today. That’s a 42% increase since 2018. Bloomberg Intelligence Global’s “ESG 2021 Outlook” predicts that ESG assets may top $53 trillion by 2025. This data shows that: 1) there is an unprecedented demand for investment in sustainable companies, and 2) by default there should also be a tremendous demand for those companies that are able to address key sustainability challenges, whether that be zero hunger, worker welfare, affordable and clean energy or climate change. Naturally, CEA companies fit right into that second category of companies addressing ESG challenges. As a result, in 2020, over $1 billion of growth equity was invested in U.S. CEA companies, and this figure only continues to grow.
Local Bounti is one of those companies actively addressing the world’s dire sustainability challenges. A rare breed, Local Bounti addresses 10 of the 17 SDGs:
- SGG 2 – No Hunger – Local Bounti’s hyperlocal farm enables us to provide fresh produce to the Western United States, an area often considered a food desert.
- SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation – Local Bounti’s indoor growing processes use 90% less water as compared to conventional outdoor agriculture. This drastic reduction in water usage conserves resources and, as is often the case in traditional agriculture, does not produce polluted water runoff.
- SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy – Our facility in Hamilton, Montana (Bitterroot), is energy efficient using the ideal combination of natural and artificial light to grow our plants.
- SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth – Local Bounti provides all employees full-time jobs with full benefits, a rarity in the agriculture industry.
- SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure – We are investing in sustainable infrastructure and technologies that will improve efficiencies, decrease costs and reduce waste passing the benefit of lower-priced, higher-quality fresh produce to consumers and retailers.
- SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities – By opening our Bitterroot facility in an underserved region of the country, we bring much needed employment, taxes and investment to Hamilton, Montana and the surrounding cities.
- SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production – Local Bounti’s produce has a shelf life of three to five weeks, compared to three to five days for field-grown produce. This extended shelf life significantly reduces food waste. In addition, given our location, our fresh produce gets to retailers quicker. Shorter food miles reduce grocer waste by 10% to 30%, on average.
- SDG 13 – Climate Action – The “local nature” of Local Bounti drastically reduces emissions from food supply chain transportation. Our farm is less than 100 miles from our retail partners, compared to over 1,100 miles, on average, for conventional agriculture.
- SDG 14 – Life Below Water – The only water lost in our growing process is through natural evaporation or absorption by our plants. This eliminates agricultural runoff that contributes to ocean pollution. We also grow our plants without the use of pesticides or herbicides, which have drastically impacted the quality of our global water supply.
- SDG 15 – Life on Land – Our indoor farm uses 90% less land than outdoor farming, reducing the impact on wildlife and the overall environment.
Our discussion today only touches the surface of Local Bounti’s commitment to sustainability. We look forward to continuing to share our sustainability achievements. In the meantime, you can read about how we are pioneering working welfare, SDG 8, here (link to other piece) and reducing food waste, SDG 16, here (link to other piece). We are excited to be part of the mission to bring our world closer to peace and prosperity by 2030.
While COVID-19 may have set the overall U.N. SDGs’ progress back, it has only heightened our passion for strengthening the world’s food supply, giving back, connecting with our community and delivering products that support health, wellness and family. With goals as important as these, we know that the runway for Local Bounti and CEA is long and that the pathway to achieving our mission will be nothing short of extraordinary.