Jean-Philippe Laborde, MD at Tilda

Rice has been grown by humans since the beginning of civilisation. Today, it feeds 3.5 billion people – and it has a significant climate impact. 

Traditionally rice is grown by continuously flooding paddy fields to keep the roots submerged in water. However, we know this farming method generates methane,  the second biggest contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide in terms of greenhouse gases.

The good news is, there is a way to cut methane emissions by nearly half by changing how rice is grown. There are multiple causes of methane emissions and agriculture is just one of them. Tilda has been working with over 900 of our most progressive farmers to test a technique called alternate wet drying (AWD). Rather than continuously flood paddy fields, farmers use pipes to monitor water levels, and flood only intermittently. AWD can reduce methane emissions from rice production by nearly 50%, as well as reduce energy and water use by up to 30%.

With the right attitude, all businesses can be more responsible, and it begins with speaking to others. We must share knowledge ­– first to unlock solutions and second to be open with what we learn. AWD has been known to scientists for some time, but the transfer of knowledge to the field has been limited. By better connecting researchers and producers, we have helped kick-start a shift in rice production methods.

We want to increase the number of farmers in India who use AWD and we’re asking our farmers to share their positive experiences to help convince others to adopt the method. Our ambition is for 50% of our farm area in India to use AWD by this time next year. Engaging, connecting and collaborating will be crucial if we’re to achieve this aim.

Another important lesson is the need to embed sustainability in all parts of the business. This means building strong foundations with your sustainability strategy and then inviting employees to willingly come on board. We rely on a few sustainability experts to drive this work, supported by many more people who must learn about and adopt new sustainability practices in their jobs. 

In our work, it has become crystal clear that consumers want transparency – in fact, they demand it. It matters less that brands have all the answers or make the odd slip-up along the way, what is more important is that they communicate with honesty, openness and transparency. Greenwashing is a term that keeps managers up at night, but greenhushing is just as bad. We need people to be having these conversations.

The path to doing better business needs a voice which celebrates success, shares insights, admits shortcomings and asks for support. I believe it’s our responsibility to be this voice as a responsible business.