Robert Coviello, Chief Sustainability Officer & Government Affairs at BUNGE, shares insights into the agricultural giant’s vision for sustainability and resource-efficiency, ahead of his speaking role at the World Agri-Tech South America Summit.

Robert Coviello, BUNGE

Take us through Bunge’s latest activities and developments particularly with and within South America.

As the leading soybean processor in South America, we are focusing and investing a lot of our sustainability and technology implementation efforts in this region, which is not only relevant for our business, but it is also home to vital landscapes for our global environment and climate.

Our major area of work as it relates to South America is our industry-leading non-deforestation commitment, aiming to eliminate all deforestation from our supply chains by 2025, the most ambitious target in our sector at this scale. Our actions are centered on the producing regions that today face a greater risk of deforestation: the Brazilian Cerrado, and the Gran Chaco region of Argentina and Paraguay.

So far, we have already reached 100% traceability to all direct source farms in these high priority regions, and are monitoring over 9,000 farms across 14 million hectares of land, which are important measures allowing us to see what’s happening in our supply chain and course correct as need, bringing us closer to meeting our 2025 commitment.

We’re also incentivizing sustainable agricultural practices by rolling out powerful tools and partnerships for farmers. In addition to existing tools like, of which we’re a major supporter, and a long-term financing deal, we recently announced the Bunge Sustainable Partnership. This unprecedented new program will help our indirect suppliers use cutting-edge technology to monitor their suppliers at no cost to them, which benefits us by giving even greater visibility into our indirect supply chain.

As one of the ‘ABCD’ quartet of global businesses – how does Bunge see its responsibility and role in building a more robust, sustainable and resource efficient supply chain in South America?

We believe that our leadership position in the global food system enables us to unite stakeholders – from farmers to consumers, NGOs and governments — and to promote actions that help to support sustainable agriculture.

One of our most relevant public commitments calls for deforestation-free global supply chains by 2025, but this does not mean we can or will achieve it without serious collaboration and multi-stakeholder partnership, particularly with our industry peers. Already we are seeing this collaboration take shape, through organizations such as the Soft Commodities Forum, allowing our peers to find scalable solutions to common industry challenges.

We also work through various associations and networks to establish common definitions on sustainability-related topics so that we can see sector-wide progress take shape. By leveraging our leading footprint in South America and a robust history of sector engagement, we can help lead the industry towards more ambitious and transformative goals.

How are your corporate sustainability commitments and efforts to better farming practices benefiting farm operators?

Farmers are crucial to the success of our non-deforestation commitment – as well as our other commitments, such as reducing emissions or promoting social and economic development. And they are valuable partners in the whole value chain who in many cases are being asked to forego agricultural expansion in order to preserve native vegetation. That is why we believe farmers should benefit from fair compensation for their environmental services by the market. And in response, they will help the industry meet its commitments to non-deforestation within an accelerated timeframe.

As we approach the World Agri-Tech South America Summit in June, what partnership opportunities and technology discussions are you most looking forward to?

At Bunge, we have a long history of partnerships and multi-stakeholder collaborations with our peers, regulators, NGOs, customers and farmers. During the World Agri-Tech South America Summit, we are eager to see how some of these ideas can flourish in light of the new trends in sustainability, and the new market signals that point toward demand for more sustainable food systems. A particularly interesting area of discussion can revolve around compensation mechanisms for farmers, and how to sufficiently reward sustainable agriculture with market-based instruments and partnerships.

Which key discussion points are you most looking forward to in your panel session at the summit? Why are these a particular focus for you? 

A major area of growth that we are seeing is in low-carbon products, and for South America in particular, products that are verified deforestation-free. Although existing certification schemes can provide these assurances, it will be exciting to see innovative ideas for new mechanisms and tools to bring these products to market and grow in value at scale.

Robert Coviello joins a prestigious panel of experts (Agoro/Yara, Bayer, Rabobank, BASF and Climate Bonds Initiative) on June 29 to discuss the core summit theme: Catalyzing Financial and Environmental Sustainability across the Agri-Food Value Chain. Connect with the Bunge team at the virtual exhibition and discover latest projects and partnerships. Register now to secure your access.