IFA 3rd Global Sustainability Conference Closing Remarks
Alzbeta Klein, CEO/Director General, International Fertilizer Association
March 31, 2022
You have been with us for over four days; through some 12 hours of high-quality content where we all had a chance to learn. Many of us started on Monday at 1 p.m. Paris time with a cup of coffee, to power us through the early afternoon. Many of you joined us from North America, bright and early at 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning. Coffee in hand. Those of you who make their own espresso probably know that a good cup takes 7 grams of ground coffee. And we learned in the first session from the CEO of Nespresso Guillaume Le Cunff that this 7-gram coffee cup takes 100 grams of CO2 to produce. And of those 100 grams, 50 grams are ours – fertilizers, products that help grow coffee, so that it gives us the taste, the quality. How do we tackle these 50 grams, how do we help decarbonize something that many of us enjoy daily?
First, are these 50 grams going to pose a cost or an opportunity?
Probably both, but I would say, the scale tips toward the opportunity. In the words of Tip O’Neill, President of IRM, you can put solar panels on your house, and it may not pay off right away, but it is now, in this moment, that this is the right thing to do. This applies to many things we do - reducing Scope 3 emissions or trying to sequester carbon in soils. It may not always work, or it may not always be measurable in an accurate manner today, but it's going in the right direction, and it is the right thing to do.
Second, also from Tip, who gave us a lot of food for thought and inspiration: If you do the right thing, money will follow your vision. If you have a long-term vision with clear long term business targets, they inevitably will lead to sustainability. Then, be focused on achieving them - with the needed flexibility - as Raviv Zoller CEO of ICL Fertilizers reminded us and demonstrate progress with a transparent measurement and reporting process, and make it digital. And don’t forget, it is a marathon, not a sprint.
We learned about some of the new things being prepared for us, namely biodiversity issues. Reducing and even reversing biodiversity losses and decreasing emissions is likely to come - at least initially - with costs to the companies that do it. But these costs are by far outweighed by invaluable, and ultimately priceless benefits; through contributing to the future and well-being of our planet and help addressing the global risks related to nature; through being recognized as a responsible actor and solution provider to society, and as one of our members OCP says, guardian of the planet’s resources.
This work will also align with and help our stakeholders, such as farmers, supply chain partners and others to reduce their emissions and negative impacts on the environment on a regional and global scale. And it can also generate good return on investment for the business: Irina Likhachova of the World Bank Group provided a list of examples of how the transition to nature-positive strategies can generate new cashflows for companies, and how financial sector is lined up to come in and invest.
Fourth, it is about our people, our staff, our employees. We heard from a number of speakers that our staff gets excited about our mission, to help feed the world sustainably. The people element, as described by Ahmed El Hoshy of OCI NV and elaborated on by Olivier Noterdaeme of McKinsey means that if organizations bring their employees on board in their journey towards sustainability, “… there are very few challenges that cannot be overcome.”
Fifth, it’s about telling our story. As Kelvin Roth of CF industries reminded us, no one ever said: “Daddy, read me a bedtime data.” We need to tell the story of our industry, and we need to tell this story to the broad audience who need to understand how fertilizers help feed the world.
IFA’s 3rd Global Sustainability Conference was the confirmation that the question is no longer IF sustainability matters but HOW to become sustainable. You heard plenty of how to go about it. And we need financing for this transition to the future – and we heard from Liz Bronder of Bank of America and others that money is available to do just that.
In closing, I would like to thank our sponsors for their generous support:
- Elite sponsors: Arab Potash, Nutrien
- Platinum sponsors: GPIC, ICL, IRM, OCP
- Gold sponsors: Argus
- And our Media Partner: Fertilizer International
I would like to thank over 400 participants from about 40 countries, including external companies, academics, students, NGOs and others who joined us at this conference, made it interactive, and most importantly learned with us.
Please don’t hesitate to tell us what we can do better, at the conference and in real life, so that we meet again, at the IFA’s 4th Global Sustainability Conference next year, even better prepared to tackle the challenges that the world will bring our way.
I would also like to thank our 45 speakers and moderators who made this conference a success. And thanks to all the staff at IFA, led by Volker Andresen, who worked on this event.
And I will close with the words of Tony Will, President and CEO of CF Industries - do you want to lead, or do you want to be led? Sustainability gives us an opportunity for the former, to lead and to include our voice in the conversations that shape the world of tomorrow.
Thank you again and have a great day.