Sustainability Report Card

‘Third-Way' mindset: Valagro Group’s last sustainability report before coming under Syngenta Biologicals

By CM Tay

- Last updated on GMT

The incorporation of a ‘Third Way’ mindset aims to focus on science and innovation to balance agricultural productivity with environmental respect. Image: Syngenta
The incorporation of a ‘Third Way’ mindset aims to focus on science and innovation to balance agricultural productivity with environmental respect. Image: Syngenta

Related tags Syngenta Biologicals sustainability

Valagro Group's recently published Sustainability Report 2023 highlights some successes and a continued commitment to environmental responsibility, social impact and economic value distribution, but more details and data would be welcome to more effectively gauge performance.

It was published by Syngenta Biologicals, the brand under which Valagro Group has operated since the former’s July 2023 launch. As such, it is the last sustainability report on Valagro Group, which is now a legacy company under Syngenta Biologicals.

According to the report, the company has aligned with the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to address global challenges — particularly in the agricultural sector — and produce enough food while optimising resources and preserving ecosystems.

The report also covers its adoption of ISO management systems, recent creation of a dedicated sustainability function and expansion of global reporting systems as part of its pro-active stance on comprehensive sustainability measures.

Is this the way forward?

One of the most notable aspects of the report is the company’s incorporation of a ‘Third Way’ mindset that focuses on science and innovation to balance agricultural productivity with environmental respect.

It states that by leveraging on this mindset, it aims “to produce more and better for the needs of the world, using less land, less water and less technical means”. The report adds that this commitment “has guided the company throughout all its history, becoming increasingly topical in the light of the newer sustainability challenges of food production”.

At the same time, the report highlights the company’s forward-looking approach through its emphasis on extending Environmental Product Declarations and reducing the environmental impact of operations, including Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.

Also highlighted is the company’s focus on stakeholder engagement, especially with farmers, industry peers, distributors, suppliers and academics. For instance, the company claims it maintains continuous dialogue with farmers through field support, training programmes and the Valagro Academy. In order to align with best practices in sustainable business, it recognises the economic value distributed among various stakeholders, including employees, suppliers and the community.

Key report aspects

Essentially, there are eight key aspects of the sustainability report:

  1. Engagement with governments, regulators, local communities, media and employees:​ To make sustainable agriculture more accessible, Valagro is pro-actively involved in sector associations and consultations with regulatory agencies, with a focus on transparency and timely data submission. It also organises dedicated projects and school visits, disseminates information on sustainability initiatives through various media channels, and uses surveys and workshop to gather employee feedback.
  2. Customer support and training:​ As part of its efforts to disseminate knowledge and optimise resources, Valagro Academy trains almost 39,000 people in 25 countries in order to educate both customers and sales personnel.
  3. Dialogue with suppliers:​ Valagro holds a workshop dedicated to suppliers, focused on quality, safety and sustainability, aligning with broader industry trends toward sustainable and ethical sourcing.
  4. Industry discussions and events:​ The company actively participates in international events, such as the World Agritech Summit and Bio Ag-World Congress. These engagements contribute to shaping debates on cutting-edge topics and showcase Valagro as an influential player.
  5. Collaboration with universities and research entities:​ As part of its commitment to scientific advancements and innovation, the company collaborates with universities and research centres worldwide, thereby contributing to developing sustainable agricultural solutions and aligning with best R&D practices.
  6. Environmental Product Declaration (EPD):​ To quantify and improve its products’ environmental impact, the company attained EPD certifications for its Atessa plant and flagship products
  7. Product launches and initiatives:​ To enhance crop water productivity, Valagro introduced TALETE, a solution developed to encourage sustainable production through proper water management in both adequate and scarce conditions. It also launched the Soil Health Project, which focuses on bio-stimulant VIVA in order to address key agricultural challenges.
  8. Research and development:​ Valagro's has invested in advanced research facilities and ongoing research projects, with a focus on increasing water and nutrient use efficiency that aligns with broader sustainability goals for global food systems.

Praise and criticism

Valagro's sustainability reporting demonstrates a commitment to addressing environmental challenges, particularly in the context of climate change and its impact on agricultural practices. The report provides a comprehensive overview of the company's efforts to monitor and reduce its carbon footprint, manage energy and emissions, responsibly use water resources, adopt sustainable materials and implement waste management practices.

It also demonstrates a commendable commitment to integrating sustainability into the company’s business model, with a prime example being the creation of a new Sustainability function in the 2022/23 year. The function's outlined responsibilities (including context analysis, strategy development and impact reporting) show a comprehensive approach to addressing environmental, social and governance (ESG) aspects.

The report’s breakdown by country, showcasing the above-average performance of various subsidiaries in prioritizing local suppliers, is a positive indicator of regional economic growth and reduced environmental impacts associated with transportation. Furthermore, its disclosure on sustainability reporting methodology, adherence to GRI Standards and reference to UN’s SDGs contribute to its credibility.

However, the report could benefit from more extensive details on the performance of water recycling technologies across different plants, as well as more information on specific projects and initiatives aimed at progressively improving renewable material use. It also lacks specific details about the company’s formalised sustainable procurement policy and its implementation, which are mentioned in the report.

Moreover, the report does not include information on specific targets and achievements related to the SDGs and as such, fails to demonstrate a more comprehensive alignment with global sustainability priorities. And while Valagro’s roadmap for 2024 and beyond is ambitious, the report lacks specific quantitative targets and timelines for emissions reduction, resource consumption and product sustainability.

While Valagro's relatively comprehensive sustainability reporting demonstrates a strong commitment to integrating sustainability and environmental responsibility across its business operations, it requires greater transparency regarding the company’s sustainable procurement policy and more detailed information on SDG alignment.

The company could benefit from stating specific, measurable targets for future sustainability initiatives, which would strengthen the credibility of its sustainability reporting and demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement. 

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