Healthy landscapes create healthy food. Landscapes are complex systems where everything is linked: good grazing management preserves vegetation which improves soil health, increases water retention, reduces erosion, and stores more carbon in vegetation and soil.
Target 6.4 By 2030 … ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater.
Context: Water use at OBE Organic’s 11-person Brisbane office is limited to domestic use. Most OBE Organic cattle are sourced from the Lake Eyre Basin, one of the world’s great inland river systems. These vast grasslands are too arid for cropping and the rivers are not dammed for irrigation. Vegetation is watered by rainfall and floods. Permanent waterways are scarce, so sub-surface water from the Great Artesian Basin is often used to supply cattle with drinking water.
Actions: With our producers not irrigating or damming, no specific actions are currently being taken by OBE Organic to manage water use on farms that supply us. Now we have adopted this SDG target, we plan to work with natural resource managers within the Lake Eyre Basin to understand what defines sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater, and what OBE Organic can do to contribute to achieving this outcome by 2030.
Target 13.1: Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards.
Context: In our production area, the highly variable seasonal climate makes future modelling very difficult, but the current expectation is temperatures and evaporation will increase; rainfall changes are uncertain. Livestock account for 5% of direct global greenhouse gas emissions and in grass fed livestock systems like ours, at least some of these emissions are reabsorbed by plants as they grow and ultimately stored in soil.
Actions: Our small office has minimal Scope 2 (purchased electricity) emissions. An EcoBiz assessment of office energy and water suggested minor changes that were implemented and resulted in a 11.6% reduction in energy use. We are monitoring Scope 3 (indirect) emissions from employee business travel, but currently not monitoring emissions from product transport.
Farms that supply us account for the majority of our carbon footprint and will bear the majority of climate change impacts. Our focus is working with producers to reduce net emissions and increase their ability to adapt to a changing climate by improving productivity and where possible looking for ways to store more carbon in vegetation and soils (although options to do this may be limited due to already sound land management practices). To do this, we became the first corporate partner of Grazing BMP in 2015, a partnership that introduced 120 producers (cumulative) to workshops in outback towns to benchmark and improve their management skills. Unfortunately Grazing BMP ended in 2019, and we are now assessing other ways to support farmers, and to move to carbon neutrality through a combination of increased productivity and, potentially, increased carbon sequestration.
We support the Australian beef industry’s ambition to be carbon neutral by 2030, and attended every Consultative Committee meeting of the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework.
Target 15.3: By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.
Context: Most of our cattle are sourced from Australia’s rangelands, known to most people as the Outback and including a diverse group of relatively undisturbed ecosystems such as shrublands and grasslands. To comply with organic certification, our producers have requirements for land management, soil health and biodiversity.
Actions: Organic management plans of all producers supplying OBE Organic are audited annually by a third party certifier to demonstrate compliance with organic principles of maintaining a harmonious relationship between environment and livestock. We don’t own any land or cattle, but we coordinate an annual independent audit for outback organic cattle producers in our network. In June 2019 this audit certified almost 8 million hectares (20 million acres) of organic grazing land. At least 5% of this land is maintained to facilitate biodiversity and nature conservation as required by organic standards – about 400,000 hectares.
Our Grazing BMP partnership, which was supporting producers to improve their already high standards of environmental management, ended in 2019. To meet the SDG target, we plan to work with natural resource managers within the Lake Eyre Basin to understand what defines land-degradation neutral in the Lake Eyre Basin, and what OBE Organic can do to contribute to achieving this outcome by 2030. Wherever possible, our focus will be on practical, pragmatic actions producers can take to tie improved land management to increase productivity and/or profitability.
Deforestation has been assessed as not material to OBE Organic because clearing of primary ecosystems is prohibited under the Organic Standards our producers are audited against every year.