Alumni in the Spotlight: Cintia Ribeiro


26 June, 2024




Cintia Ribeiro is Director, Commercial Digital Integrator, Soy and Crop Protection at Bayer, supporting farmers to be successful in their journey towards regenerative agriculture. Read on and watch the video as she provides an overview of her time as a participant in WBCSD’s Leadership Program and the practical solutions she brought back with her to advance Bayer’s sustainability journey.

Key takeaways

  • Cintia upskilled herself in corporate sustainability when she was contributing to Bayer’s initiatives in creating new and innovative business models.
  • Cintia conceptualized a farmer-centric carbon sequestration project as part of her coursework in the Leadership Program. This has since become a commercial offering at Bayer called the Bayer Carbon Program, a mutually beneficial endeavor for farmers, Bayer, and companies seeking credible carbon offset projects as well as sustainable sourcing solutions.
  • Cintia’s initiative with the Bayer Carbon Program illustrates that innovative thinking around business models can support companies in creating profitable solutions for people and planet.

What motivated you to join WBCSD’s Leadership Program?

At the time, I had a job in developing new business models. As a scientist by training, I found that we were always innovative from a research perspective, and we created a new team to carry over this innovative mindset to reinvent the way we do business. So even though I didn’t have a traditional sustainability job, the Leadership Program was a great opportunity for me to learn more about how to be impactful, and how to think about sustainability in a profitable way as part of the company strategy, instead of as a side effort.

What was your experience during the Leadership Program?

One of the things that I appreciated the most was the opportunity to work with people from other industries. In internal trainings, we end up working with people in the same industry and similar backgrounds. In contrast, the Leadership Program had one of the most diverse group of people that I encountered, coming from all types of influential roles within their company as well as from many different industries. It was very nice to collaborate with them and see many ways of approaching the same problem. We created a very tight community.

Undertaking the individual project in the Leadership Program was also very powerful. We had the opportunity to take lessons from the classroom and conceptualize a project that we could apply directly within our company. My individual project was about carbon sequestration within farms and opportunities in soil carbon sequestration. I was able to run this program as a pilot at Bayer, and it was so successful that it became my full-time job to lead Bayer’s carbon program, which is now a commercial offering. This all came from the project that I did with WBCSD.

What steps did you take at Bayer after the Leadership Program?

Bayer has a very large crop science division in which we create seeds, special commodity products, and crop protection products for farmers that help the crops thrive and maximize yield. In recent years, we started thinking more about how we can help farmers succeed in their regenerative agriculture journey by offering more to help them manage their land sustainably for long-term success.

At the same time, many companies are having to manage their emissions to get to net-zero, and carbon offsetting is a viable solution to help complement that journey. There have been more data and research on incorporating carbon in the soil as long-term storage. This requires different crop management practices, such as not removing the entire biomass during harvest and not revolving the soil, which are practices that American farmers have done historically.

The idea behind my project was: could we help farmers transition to different management practices that help re-accumulate soil carbon? Bayer could support farmers in this transition by quantifying soil accumulation, certifying for third parties’ registries, and generating carbon credits for the farmers so they can be part of the solution to climate change. That idea was implemented as a pilot in Bayer in 2020. We enrolled farmers and engaged them in the development of the program and worked with companies interested in offsetting to understand their needs. Bayer was uniquely positioned to be able to build these relationships and collect the necessary data using the digital farming offerings that we already had.

It was a huge success in terms of farmer acceptance. We hit our enrollment target within a month, and there was a wait list of farmers wanting to participate. As with any project, there are some challenges and limitations that we hope to overcome over time, but we have been expanding the program to millions of acres and the program has become a commercial offering that is part of our portfolio of solutions.

Now, we can provide digital solutions that help farmers track the best data for decision-making to support them in their regenerative agriculture journey. We created a team of agronomists that can support farmers participating in the Bayer Carbon Program, and money from the carbon project helps offset the cost of the transition towards regenerative agriculture. We realize that regenerative agriculture is an important priority for food companies, but they lack the direct relationship with the farmers that we have. Bayer helps bridge that gap by creating programs that generate revenue for farmers as they adopt different practices, and at the same time, we use our deep understanding of agriculture to help advocate on behalf of farmers for realistic and practical ways to transition towards regenerative agricultural methods.

This program has been a win for everybody. It’s a win for the farmers because it generates revenue for them, it is a win for Bayer because it helps us integrate our portfolio of offerings, and it’s a win for companies that want to work in regenerative agriculture that didn’t have the relationship to the farmers before.

A final message for business leaders?

Sometimes people can view sustainability as a buzzword or something that is impractical or unprofitable. I think the whole concept of the program is about making sustainability an integral part of your corporate strategy: how you help drive revenue? How do you help investor and stakeholder success? I’ve been able to apply these principles directly in the company, and I’ve seen results in implementing the project and the pilot with carbon. For us, it turned out to be a profitable proposition. It’s a business model for us today, not just a niche sustainability initiative.