Apr 18, 2012 • By

Partners in conservation

The mission of The Nature Conservancy is simple: to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Of course, achieving that mission is far from easy.

Mark Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), stopped by our headquarters today as part of our “Sustainability Week: Feed the Future” at General Mills. He shared strategies for how his organization is focused on achieving its mission.

Tercek focused specifically on agriculture and the need to make sustainable improvements in irrigation, tillage, maximizing yields and other farming and land use practices – something that General Mills has been committed to for decades.

“Probably, there is no more important space for non governmental organizations like us and companies like General Mills to collaborate in the whole environmental arena than in agriculture,” says Tercek.

Two billion people are expected to be added to the planet over the next 30 or 40 years, perhaps a total projected population of 9 billion by 2050.

“We need more agricultural output to feed everybody, but we’ve got to do it in a way this is sustainable – that doesn’t undermine the ecosystems that are the underpinning of agricultural output, and really, the underpinning of human well-being in general.”

Stopping deforestation, increasing productivity from land that is currently under cultivation and improving environmental outcomes are three strategies TNC is using to make improvements on the agriculture front.

General Mills, specifically Green Giant, partnered with TNC beginning in 2009 to work with farmers to reduce erosion and improve the water quality of the Root River in southern Minnesota. The work resulted in a reduction in sediment runoff of 486 tons a year. (You can read more about the project in our 2012 Global Responsibility report.)

TNC and General Mills are just starting a new project – to assess more than a dozen watersheds that our company uses for sourcing or production.

Tercek explains, “The plan is to use TNC science, combined with General Mills business know-how and science, combined with the local know-how and hands-on capability of your providers.”

Our initial focus will be to better understand each watershed at a very local level, then identify appropriate next steps.

“By collaborating with suppliers, I’m pretty optimistic that we will, together, come up with some great breakthrough ideas on how to navigate our way through so we can have the environmental outcomes and agricultural output outcomes that we need.”

TNC has 4,000 people, including 600 scientists, hard at work in 39 countries.