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Stanford researchers find major food retailer’s sustainability program drives farmers’ environmental practices

a photo of agriculture in a greenhouse
Image credit: Katherine Smit
Jan 9 2018
Fellow, Research, Stanford

When grocery stores tout sustainable products, consumers may take their claims at face value. Yet few studies have analyzed whether or not companies who claim to improve the sustainability of their products are actually changing practices in their supply chains.

In a new study published online Dec. 22 in the journal Global Environmental Change, Stanford researchers carried out one of the first analyses of a company-led sustainability program in the food and agriculture space. Studying the agricultural supply chain of Woolworths Holding Ltd. (Woolworths), one of the five largest supermarket chains in South Africa, they found that its Farming for the Future program drove increased adoption of environmental practices at the farm level. Agriculture is one of the largest global environmental polluters, driving deforestation and contributing an estimated 30 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Lead author Tannis Thorlakson is a 2013 Stanford Graduate Fellow.

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