Written by William Juul, SIZA Junior Environmental Specialist

Over the past few decades, knowledge surrounding the rise in temperatures and the subsequent effects on the climate has become the main driving force behind sustainable business practices. In the past, progress was pushed to the forefront of development, regardless of its effects on the environment. Industry grew, and alongside the growth, the world needed to keep up. This growth has led to one of the most significant issues and so-called time-bombs of our lifetime, climate change.

Eventually, the field of agriculture also evolved from basic agricultural practices to sustain food needed for surrounding areas, to an international trade where different crops could be prioritised on various continents thanks to the possibility of food importing and exporting. The inevitable agricultural growth did not just ensure sufficient food for the masses, but also led to an abundance of produce to meet the high demands and ensure financial gains. As in every industry, growth led to an increased carbon output and something as innocent as agriculture evolved into one of the most significant contributors to the worldwide environmental crisis. The need to sustain the current food production infrastructure worldwide has forced agriculture to grow daily, furthering the devastating effects of carbon emissions and global warming due to agricultural activities.

SIZA identified that agricultural growth will inevitably be a significant risk if the needed mitigation and planning infrastructure is not set in place to ensure sustainable growth. With an ever-growing global population, the demands for agricultural growth have only increased. That is where SIZA identified the need to step in. The risks to climate change must be tackled at the primary source of the issue. The SIZA Environmental Standard identifies the (four) fundamental cornerstones to ensure sustainable agricultural growth and decrease the effects of this growth on the surrounding environment. To minimise the possible negative impacts of agriculture, the SIZA programme and standard outlines management plans for soil, water, biodiversity, and energy and waste materials. These plans are structured as tools to mitigate and offset the risks related to carbon emissions due to agricultural activities.

How does SIZA approach the problem at hand? The SIZA Environmental standard focuses on the interconnected nature of agricultural activities. By understanding the interconnectedness of ecological functioning, the SIZA Environmental standard allows for planning to ensure that all agricultural activities can be planned in such a way that they support one another. Planning is key to understanding the symbiotic relationships between the four cornerstones of the environment — the SIZA Environmental standard assists directly in improving planning and the implementation of the developed plans. Sound soil management practices, for example, have a positive impact on water use by minimising the need for excessive water allocations. Optimised water use allows for more reserves in underground water tables and surface water sources. Subsequently, healthy soils and water availability ensures healthy functioning biodiversity and ecological functions. Evidently, the use of energy-intensive practices such as large-scale irrigation practices and soil management machinery automatically reduces your energy outputs and material wastage. Therefore, SIZA Environmental standard assists in sustainable development while also contributing to a resilient approach to climate change.

SIZA Environmental focuses on developing sustainable management plans based on understanding the relationship between the environment and your agricultural practices. Therefore, SIZA contributes directly to the decrease in carbon output from farms, contributing positively to the climate change issues. SIZA not only focuses on minimising carbon outputs, but focuses are also directed at carbon sequestration practices to minimise the impacts on climate change and positively impact the climate issues in attempts to reverse the effects and impacts of previous generations.