Canola industry defining sustainability for itself

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For a relatively young crop — with it’s invention originating 60 years ago — there is significant global demand for canola, in many different forms. 90 per cent of the canola we grow here in Canada exported — whether it be for renewable fuels, livestock feed, cooking oil, or more.

Jim Everson, of the Canola Council of Canada (CCC), spoke at the Alberta Canola Conference at Lethbridge, Alta., this week, to discuss some of the opportunities in the industry. Part of the reason canola demand is where it’s at, surrounds Canada’s ability to trade canola and rapeseed globally, because of our good agronomic practices.

As the word sustainability reaches more and more mouths, we’ve all realized one thing — everyone seems to define it a little bit differently, and as Everson explains, it’s often based around an individual’s agenda. The CCC has decided it’s important they have a direct definition for the term, so when global customers ask question about sustainability, they have an answer.

“How we manage those issues is important to the customer relationship, important to our competitive offering globally. So we’re really focused on how we define it. And how do we define it so that it’s valuable to our customers, and that it’s a process that can be embraced by growers and by the value chain?” he asks. “We’re particularly interested in the GHG emission side of it, because of the attention that the industry and the people in general have globally around the necessity of dealing with GHG emissions.” (Story continues below video)

“An objective for us is to be sure that growers have the option, and are not limited in the use of fertility to grow a crop to meet global demand, while at the same time finding ways to ensure that we’re contributing to the GHG emission imperative out there. It’s a balance, and we need to have a strategy that’s driven by industry, and not by other stakeholders in our business.”

One of the many questions and focuses of the CCC currently is how they can hit the emissions reductions targets, while simultaneously grow the industry.

The answer, says Emerson, is metrics and benchmarking. Currently, the organization has no alignment to any specific methodology, but they are continuing to figure out which is the best for the canola industry as a whole. It’s not necessarily about creating a new program — it’s more about using what’s out there already as far as private sector and grower solutions.

“We’re here as enablers in providing those kinds of solutions around agronomics, metrics, and the research agenda — and create a consensus and alignment around those areas. But what’s going to drive this business as growers is the private sector, that’s looking at a competitive advantage of how they can contribute to these solutions,” says Emerson.

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