Earth Overshoot Day (EOD) marks the day when the world’s population has exhausted our planet’s capacity to regenerate natural resources over the course of the year. In 2023, this day fell on August 2. For comparison, in 2000, EOD fell in September, and in 1970 it fell in December.
This and other statistics indicate the urgency, more than ever before in history, of acting for the environment together, as a global community: governments, private sector, organizations of all kinds, and the population at large. And as one of the world’s largest agri-commodities merchants, with a key role to help feed and clothe millions of people every day, we recognize and embrace our responsibility in this race against time.
As highlighted in our latest Sustainability Report, at LDC we strive to adopt and implement the industry’s most innovative and efficient sustainable business practices, and encourage stakeholders across our value chains to do the same. Many of these practices are supported and/or powered by data. This is what we call data-driven sustainability.
To gain insights into data-driven sustainability and how it is being applied at LDC, we sat down with two of our experts: Léa Yue Xu, Innovation Manager, Digital Technology & Analytics, and Wei Peng, Global Head of Sustainability for Grains & Oilseeds.
In Data We Trust
At LDC, data-driven sustainability is about using data and analytics to make informed decisions and drive positive environmental and social changes across our operations and supply chains. It involves collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data to identify patterns, trends and opportunities to improve practices.
“Working with data helps us understand where LDC stands, and define targets and directions to improve, with the ability to measure and track our progress along the way,” says Léa. “Using data to drive change also facilitates communication across different teams working on common sustainability projects, such as agronomists, data scientists, sustainability analysts, and commercial and execution teams.”
A data-driven approach also enhances market understanding, supports training development for business partners, especially smallholder farmers, and facilitates communication among different external stakeholders, toward a more standardized measurement process in sustainability initiatives and programs.
“We are guided in our work by LDC’s purpose to create fair and sustainable value – for our business, our partners, and our stakeholders. As we expand our activities in the food, feed, fiber, and ingredients space, we work to drive sustainability and traceability from producer to consumer, ultimately benefiting all value chains participants,” says Wei.
Data-Driven Approach for Sustainable Product Development
“At LDC, commercial and sustainability teams work hand in hand to develop sustainable product offerings for customers, helping them meet their sustainability commitments,” says Wei. “Data plays a crucial role in this process, enabling us to measure and communicate the products’ sustainability impact.”
For instance, LDC’s Grains & Oilseeds Platform offers palm oil customers a wide range of supply chain sustainability data and services, from traceability capabilities and deforestation satellite monitoring, to human rights metrics.
Similarly, our Juice Platform developed a tool called LDC Trace, providing product data such as origination and processing information, quality indicators and certifications. This tool connects stakeholders along the value chain, optimizing data sharing and reducing information latency. The integrated system provides fast, clear and agile information in the way that final consumers would like to see it.
In Coffee, a digital platform was developed for our origin agents and suppliers to capture and share transaction details with different coffee growers, before aggregating and selling their products.
Finally, LDC also started a baselining exercise to collect primary data on Scope 3 Greenhouse Gas Emissions in selected supply chains, using the Cool Farm Tool.
Spotlight on Deforestation Mitigation
Deforestation being one of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time, understanding and monitoring high-risk regions is of the utmost importance to eliminate deforestation and native vegetation conversion for agricultural purposes from our global supply chains. Data management, once again, is a key enabler in this endeavor.
“As we work to deliver on our deforestation-free commitment by the end of 2025, and comply with coming into force at end of 2024, a Group-wide effort is needed to establish physical and digital traceability of product supply chains, as a basis for supplier due diligence to farm level, and ultimately procurement decisions,” says Wei.
LDC’s global Data Science team supports this goal by utilizing data sources such as satellite imagery, crop masks, Global Forest Change data and field polygons, to build a large-scale deforestation monitoring tool.
“Combining external and internal data, LDC performs commodity-driven deforestation analyses for regions with higher predicted deforestation risk,” says Léa. “To do so, we use a cascading approach to go to more granular levels of supplier monitoring: from country to municipality, and from municipality to farm. In cases where granular data points are unavailable, a buffer range (a radius) tailored to the region’s profile is used to analyze the sourcing area around our physical assets.”
In Southeast Asia for example, where we work more with smallholder farmers, the range is smaller compared to South America, where larger farms are dominant. This approach enables LDC to identify high deforestation risk hotspots and implement appropriate control mechanisms.
“Going forward, we aim to further develop our data management approach by enhancing a repository of location sites (farms, assets, etc.), connecting our internal systems with external solutions and further reinforcing sustainability metrics,” says Léa.
“At LDC, we always choose to pave the way for long-lasting relationships with our partners, which means conducting our business responsibly and relentlessly pursuing our work toward a more sustainable future of food and agriculture,” concludes Wei. “Our continual efforts to improve our work and methods thanks to data are just one facet of that the action we undertake in this ongoing journey to safely and sustainably feed a growing world population.”