Katowice, Poland, 5 December 2018: Today on World Soil Day at the UNFCCC COP24, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) launched a new report highlighting the business case for investing in soil health. The Business Case for Investing in Soil Healthshows how companies around the world are beginning to address the issue and identifies the next steps for scaling-up action and investment in soil health. 

Soil health is a pressing global issue that sits at the heart of three UN conventions (UNCBD, UNCCD and UNFCCC). There is an urgent need to mobilize nature-based solutions to address the challenges of climate change. Global soils contain two to three times more carbon than the atmosphere – however, by working with nature and improving soil health, increased carbon sequestration can help to reduce emissions and withstand some of the unavoidable effects of climate change. 

Today’s report shows that the business case for investing in soils is diverse. It can include maintaining or increasing revenues, reducing or avoiding costs, enhancing reputation, or opening up finance opportunities. Whilst an investment may be primarily focused on one outcome (e.g. for enhancing crop productivity or livelihoods, climate mitigation, improving water resources, or protecting biodiversity), the chapters of the report collectively demonstrate that an investment in soils for any one of these outcomes will deliver multiple benefits. 

The publication identifies three key next steps to accelerate action in this area:

  1. Lower the hurdles to practices that promote soil health: for example, by exploring value-capture systems that supports the grower in offsetting the initial cost of implementing sustainable agricultural practices that promote soil health.
  2. Take advantage of the national context and act locally: alignment with national soil health policies and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) commitments such as the Land Degradation Neutrality baselines could open up financial options and technical support for in-country projects.
  3. Build partnerships for soil health: an investment in soil health delivers both public and private benefits, but adapting action to local context is key. Business can explore supply chain cooperation, public-private partnerships and landscape alliances that spread costs and risks, promote innovation and knowledge exchange and ensure locally-appropriate solutions. 

Most importantly, companies are encouraged to take action immediately. Science-based solutions that integrate the issue of soils into reporting, accounting and supply chain assurance can already be piloted and implemented. 

“As part of our commitment to re-imagine global agriculture, I envisage this defining work becoming the basis for companies to make large-scale investments in soil health preservation and regeneration practices. By understanding the environmental, social and business benefits, businesses can now see the full picture, and I expect this will spur more and more investments in the area.” said Sunny Verghese, Co-Founder and Group CEO of Olam International and WBCSD Chair.

Many global companies are beginning to understand that investing in soil health is critical for the future of their business. Benefits of improved soils include increased crop productivity, more secure supply chains and better prospects for helping meet the food needs of the growing population. In addition, good soil health can protect bio-diversity and water resources and help to enhance the livelihoods of the one-in-three people worldwide who work in agriculture.

The Business Case for Investing in Soil Health” was collaboratively produced by business practitioners, researchers and experts, supported and facilitated by the WBCSD Climate Smart Agriculture project. It was coordinated by an editorial committee of representatives from IUCN, WWF, The Nature Conservancy and Lancaster University. More than 30 authors have contributed their views to the report.