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Monsanto aims for 'carbon neutrality'

Monsanto, a global agricultural company headquartered in St. Louis, says it is taking a leadership role as the sector deals with climate change.

Monsanto plans to make all operations carbon neutral by 2021.

Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant says essentially the company wants all of its systems to store, offset or sequester as much carbon as they release.

“When the beginning and the end match up and you are at net-neutrality, that’s the definition of a good day, I think.”

The company’s plan focuses on three areas: seed production, crop protection and data sharing. The effort has been in the works for nearly a decade and the announcement coincides with a climate change conference underway in Paris.

“Paris is maybe a starting point,” says Grant.

“I’m much more focused on what happens beyond Paris and how we measure this year-by-year.”

Grant says he understands some people could be skeptical about the company’s goal, which even he describes as ambitious.

But he says he'll stand by the data the program will produce over the years.

“For the cynics - as we do this and report publicly every year, we’ll start to drive believers as well.”

Hugh Grant, CEO, Monsanto
Credit Monsanto
Grant says the carbon neutrality plan amounts to Monsanto's opening statement in a global climate change conversation.

Even though Monsanto has been working on approaches to carbon neutrality for several years, the announcement follows a trend in the global corporate community.

Many companies, including Mars Incorporated, Kellogg Company and Unilever, have agreed to move more swiftly to deal with climate change.

Many signed a letterpublished earlier this year in The Washington Post and Financial Times.

And the White House has pushed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, which has been signed by more than 150 companies so far.

Those employers have set goals that include a 50 percent reduction in emissions and an 80 percent drop in water usage.

At least one researcher says he believes the corporate attitude to just announce a commitment is a significant step forward.

Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University Deputy Director David Lobell tells the Associated Press it’s important for any major company to strive toward carbon neutrality.

He says the announcements, including the plan set out by Monsanto, amount to positive steps, even if they don’t have much impact in addressing climate change.

(The Monsanto Fund is a contributor to St. Louis Public Radio. News judgments are made independently by St. Louis Public Radio.)

Wayne Pratt is the Broadcast Operations Manager and former morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.