Sustainability Ambition 2030
Sustainability starts with the seed
Agriculture is facing substantial global challenges. These include a growing world population, increased consequences of climate change, and the protection of biodiversity and natural resources.
Innovations in plant breeding can and will play a key role in overcoming these challenges. A diverse and thriving portfolio of varieties developed using innovative breeding methods enables a significant reduction of inputs while safeguarding stable and high yields, true to the motto: #SeedingtheFuture
"We want to be a reliable partner for farmers and the entire agricultural value chain in the future as well:
Our 2030 Sustainability Ambition helps us translate the demands placed on the agriculture industry to create a concrete roadmap for our company to deliver solutions as a seed specialist to support economically viable, ecologically durable and socially responsible farming."
Dr. Felix Büchting, KWS Executive Board Spokesman
Our targets are filed in two categories and six main elements
While sustainability has been at the core of what we do ever since, we have now taken the next step to define a clear ambition with measurable targets which we want to reach by 2030. This way, we create transparency and make our efforts more visible. For us, these targets define a clear path forward and help us to work on concrete milestones along the way.
Safeguard food production
Our target is to enable an average of 1.5% annual yield gain for farmers (field crops).
We want to reach this target by focusing on two main factors:
Progress in plant breeding
Progress in plant breeding is the most relevant contributor to safeguard food production for a growing world population in the face of climate change and limited resources. Current yield improvement rates are not sufficient to meet this demand while at the same time conserving land for natural habitats and wildlife - and facing climate change effects. With this in mind, we have decided not only to maintain our long-standing focus on continuous yield improvement, but to track and analyze our own performance more closely and will introduce additional practical measures to help farmers achieve the best possible results with the available farmland.
Digital farming solutions
Digital farming solutions like the myKWS applications help farmers to optimize farming by making better choices during the cultivation of the crops. Higher yields and a smarter use of inputs can be achieved by using the full scope of digital farming support tools offered by KWS. We have set a clear target of providing digital farming solutions to farmers on more than 6 million hectares by 2030. This goal will primarily be achieved by offering future registered KWS varieties directly with a tailor-made digital extension. This way, up to a quarter of the overall target of 1.5% annual yield gain may be driven by digital farming solutions in 2030.
Minimize input required
Our target is to enable >50% reduction of chemical crop protection for Europe (and globally).
The European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork strategy have set clear targets around sustainable farming in Europe. Among these targets is a reduction in the use of chemical plant protection by 50%. This is where the seed sector continues to act as a key solution provider. For KWS, we do not limit our targets to the European region - both goals relate to our global activities.
We want to reach this target by:
1. Investing >30% p.a. of our R&D budget into reduction of inputs
Ever since we started breeding our own varieties, KWS has been investing in research and development of new and better varieties and seeds. In 2019/2020, we invested 236 million € into our R&D activities. We have now set ourselves a transparent target of investing over 30% of our yearly R&D budget specifically into the reduction of inputs (water, fertilizer, pesticides). This means we are setting up specific projects focusing on the development of varieties which are more resistant to diseases or pathogens, more tolerant to climate challenges such as drought or floods and which in consequence will need less attention from the farmer and less crop protection, for example.
2. Ensuring >25% of KWS varieties are suitable for low input agriculture
Low input varieties are varieties that can use existing resources more efficiently and which have been tested regarding their performance under low input conditions.
We define these low input conditions as low levels of fertilizer application, low water availability or drought and low levels of chemical crop protection application. Thus, only varieties with high efficiency rates can thrive under these conditions. KWS has set a target to ensure at least 25% of newly registered varieties in our portfolio are categorized as “suitable for low input”.
While sustainability has been at the core of what we do ever since, we have now taken the important step to define and communicate a clear ambition and targets which we want to reach by 2030. This way, we create transparency around our guiding principle of “achieving more with less” and make our efforts more visible. For us, the targets define the way forward and help us to work on concrete milestones along the way.
Enhance crop diversity
Our target is to enrich crop rotation options by increasing the number of crops with dedicated breeding programs from 24 to 27 by 2030.
Already today, KWS displays a large diversity by running breeding programs in 24 different crop species and offers one of the broadest crop portfolios in the global seed market. Until 2030, we are endeavoring to even further expand the portfolio to give the agricultural sector additional opportunities for crop rotation which are economically and ecologically sustainable. KWS is focusing on offering additional crops to make its contribution to protecting and securing diverse farming. We are also focusing on crops that can provide alternative or local sources of protein. Last but not least, we are examining the integration of breeding programs for crops that enable or complement sustainable cultivation systems and crop rotations.
Support sustainable diets
Our target is to ensure that >40% of varieties are suitable for predominantly direct use in human nutrition.
As more and more people are turning towards predominantly plant-based diets, the food industry is seeking to meet increasing demand through new plant-based products and by replacing e. g. meat, egg, or milk with plant-based substitutes. With our target to ensure that harvested produce from a least 40% of KWS varieties are suitable for predominantly direct use in human nutrition, we again reinforce our commitment to offer a diverse food basis and to support a growing demand for plant-based diet after the addition of vegetables to our portfolio in 2019.
Improve operational footprint
We will improve our operational footprint by:
1. Reducing our scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50% until 2030 and bring them to net-zero by 2050
For the upcoming years, KWS has set the ambitious goal to ensure a reduction of our scope 1 and 2 Greenhouse Gas emissions by 50% until 2030. In the year 2050, we aim to bring our emissions down to net-zero. These targets are consistent with reductions required to keep warming to 1.5°C. For KWS as a plant breeder, production and research require the highest energy input. Amongst other, improved technologies and more efficient use of existing facilities and resources as well as increased application of renewable energies in offices, breeding and production facilities will be main levers to drive our emissions down.
2. Establishing score cards to provide transparency on ecological footprint of all seed production sites
To ensure that the KWS specific environmental footprint is as low as possible and be able to prove the required in-depth insights, we will no longer only rely on internal guidelines and audits but establish environmental performance score cards for all internal seed production sites. The score card system will be focusing, amongst others, on biodiversity, water protection and emissions. All production sites including processing facilities as well as internal seed-multiplication plots will be evaluated individually, which enables us to screen our internal locations and processes for improvement opportunities and show the ecological footprint of our activities.
Foster social engagement
We want to reach this target by:
1. Investing a minimum of 1% EBIT p.a. into social projects globally
We want to transform our KWS corporate values even more into commitment and assume greater responsibility in society. We want to achieve this target by externally investing at least one percent of our annual operating profit in social projects. The amount spent will be divided to support donation and sponsoring projects. The focus of our social commitment is on the development of the mostly rural environment of our locations on a cultural, social, and socio-economic level to promote opportunities and general well-being of the inhabitants as well as to increase the overall attractiveness of the locations. Children and young people are particularly close to our hearts. Furthermore, we focus on promoting education and science, especially in the field of natural and agricultural sciences.
2. Measuring and continuously improving our employee engagement
Employee engagement measures the degree of emotional attachment of employees to their employer and thus the extent to which employees are motivated to contribute to the company's success and the realization of its goals.
KWS will continuously measure and seek to improve the employee engagement index. Engagement is not a one-off project, but an ongoing integrated process throughout the company, in which managers and employees play a central role.
3. Continuously declining the ratio of occupational accidents/illnesses index
KWS commits to continuously improve general working conditions and occupational health and safety of our employees worldwide including the mere prevention of accidents as well as daily business working conditions and mental health. This can be achieved through globally uniform standards as well as systematic training of management positions with regards to the occupational health and safety of their employees.