What it Takes to Feed the World Sustainably

A combination of partnerships, innovation, evidence and sustainable financing solutions will help the fertilizer industry do its part to transform food systems and support a healthy planet.

29 March 2021

These themes drove the virtual 2021 IFA Global Sustainability Conference, March 9-11, where the discussions focused on concrete examples and action.

“The need to protect our planet and produce even more nutritious food with limited resources remains and demands immediate response and concerted action from all of us,” said Mostafa Terrab, International Fertilization Association (IFA) Chairman and Chairman of OCP Group, Morocco.

IFA convened 450 attendees from business, universities, international organizations, government agencies, ratings agencies and social enterprises.

The COVID-19 pandemic with its effects on food, the UN Food Systems Summit with its focus on more sustainable and equitable food systems and the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) with its emphasis on accelerating action make 2021 a year like no other. There is also the challenge of feeding some 10 billion people and doing so sustainably.

In this context, the fertilizer industry, together with related industries and partners in the agriculture value chain that focus on plant nutrition, is looking at a solutions-based approach to producing, distributing and using fertilizers.

“Our job as the fertilizer industry is to help feed the world sustainably, and we can do this through scientific evidence, partnerships, technology and new business models across the agricultural value chain,” said Alzbeta Klein, Director General, IFA.

Speakers and panelists explored three areas during the conference:

  • Food Systems Transformation: The role of sustainable plant nutrition.
  • Sustainable Fertilizer Production and Use.
  • Sustainable Investments and Sustainable Finance.

Takeaways from the conference included:

  • The industry’s role in feeding people—half of the food in the world is due to mineral fertilizers—means it has a vital role to play in shaping solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), preserving biodiversity and managing natural resources.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all approach to tackling social and environmental challenges across the fertilizer value chain because conditions vary greatly depending on a country or region.
  • Equally, it takes partnerships with the scientific community, regulators, governments, non-governmental organizations and communities among others to develop solutions.
  • Environmental, social and governance considerations are in the mainstream of business today.
  • Investors are looking to finance projects that support companies on their paths to sustainability, which includes the fertilizer industry and others along the agriculture value chain.
  • IFA and its members are developing a nutrient stewardship roadmap and an online sustainable fertilizer academy, among other initiatives aimed at accelerating the sustainable transformation of the fertilizer industry.

IFA’s next forum is Smart & Green, a virtual event that will showcase cutting-edge plant nutrition technologies, from slow- and controlled-release fertilizers to digital farming, biostimulants and nutrient recycling. The conference is open to non-members and members alike, June 8-10, 2021.