Leading the Research into Net Zero Black Pepper
McCormick has committed to achieving Net Zero by 2050. Our near-term Purpose-Led Performance goals are time-bound and quantifiable, however, while each has its own methodology for data capture and tracking, some are intrinsically linked. An example of this is the overlap between our goal to sustainably source 100% of our branded top five iconic raw materials (black pepper, cinnamon, oregano, red pepper and vanilla) while simultaneously achieving a 42% reduction in scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions. Regenerative agriculture practices go some way towards linking the two.
Our supply chain is incredibly complex with over 14,000 raw materials sourced from approximately 85 countries. To add to the complexity, our herbs and spices are largely grown by smallholder farmers with farm lots approximately one acre in area. For comparison, the size of an average farm in the USA is around 450 acres. Therefore, in order to implement regenerative agriculture practices in our supply chains, we need to work with thousands of individual spice farmers. Our Agricultural Sciences Program Manager, Michael Austin, Ph.D., is doing just that.
Over the last two years, Michael has been working with our in-country partners to gather and test hundreds of soil samples and provide tailored recommendations to improve soil health. “It’s all about the fundamentals,” says Michael, “firstly we need to baseline, take soil samples, and understand what the challenges and opportunities for improvement are.”
Black pepper was identified as having the largest carbon footprint amongst our iconic raw materials and therefore the first supply chain Michael focused on: “There’s around 1,500 farmers and they’re spread out through Vietnam in terrain that’s tough to access. It’s a whole different ballgame. But we’re taking and analyzing these samples and developing soil health programs, and healthy soils equal healthy plants.” Soil reviews were also rolled out in Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey, India and Madagascar to cover all five iconic raw materials, providing regional, and in some cases even farm-level, soil health recommendations.
Healthy soils are not only great for plants, but also play an important role in climate change mitigation by storing carbon, a key component of regenerative agriculture. Our newest initiative in Vietnam links our healthy soils program with McCormick’s Net Zero ambition - we are on a quest to create a net zero black pepper farm.