How Jim Jenkins Develops Sustainable Agricultural Solutions At Nutrien

SustainabilityX®’s #DecadeOfAction Interview Campaign

Jim Jenkins' #DecadeOfAction Interview for The SustainabilityX® Magazine

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As part of SustainabilityX®’s #DecadeOfAction change-making campaign for 2020 to help achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, we’re interviewing trailblazing global leaders in sustainability who’re taking the world by storm through their groundbreaking work and impactful contributions to advancing global sustainable development.

The goal is to gain more depth and understanding of sustainable business and development in practice while celebrating leaders’ work to inspire and motivate others to take action in such a crucial era.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Jim Jenkins in this regard, Senior Manager, Product Risk & Sustainability at Nutrien, the largest producer of potash and the third-largest producer of nitrogen fertilizer in the world.

Here’s what he had to say:

Q: How do you define sustainability and sustainable development, and what does it mean to you?

To me, sustainability is a state of balance where the activities in question can continue indefinitely at a rate that won’t upset that balance. A science analogy would be a steady-state equation where the rate of change (materials turned into products for example) can be maintained because there is a return (or renewable) supply of those materials.

Sustainable development is the collective actions taken to reach this balanced state, not just economic actions but ecological and social as well. The UN sustainability development goals identify the elements we must keep in balance.

Jim Jenkins' #DecadeOfAction Interview for The SustainabilityX® Magazine
Jenkins planning and executing strategies to integrate product stewardship best practices (raw material supply evaluation, safety information generation, specification management, licensing, regulatory advocacy, and customer technical support) across the company.
Q: Why did you decide to go into the field of sustainability?

It started with a deep concern about our planetary condition and relevance to my job where I saw I could make an impact. As a chemist, I understand the benefits that many chemical products deliver but I also have an interest in their unintended consequences from a safety culture perspective (Bhopal chemical release, Beirut ammonium nitrate explosion, plastics impact on the environment, etc).

When I took on the role to develop a product stewardship program for a major North American fertilizer company, I realized product stewardship + sustainability = product sustainability and all the pieces came together. I knew I had to get involved.

Q: How can business help advance sustainable development and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals?

The central answer is that business has to get past the mindset that doing less environmental and social harm is good enough and move on to creating products and services that solve problems for the community and environment while remaining economically viable.

Business is at the center of economic development and our jobs are such a big part of our lives (maybe too much for some of us), that companies are in a unique position to influence, invest and lead the acceleration of sustainable development at three levels.

  • At the Industry Sector level: setting leadership industry standards for sustainable practice, collaborating across sectors to reduce systemic social and environmental impacts, developing sustainability roadmaps and measurements that track SDG performance

  • At the Company level: delivering on sustainability improvement goals, integrating sustainability practices into investments and operations, engaging with communities to learn how to increase social and environmental benefit, influencing suppliers and customers

  • At the Employee level: mobilizing employees through education and awareness, mapping sustainability to job roles, and creating the opportunity to get involved in sustainability initiatives in the company and community

Q: How do you incorporate sustainability practices into your business strategy to help achieve these goals, and what practices are they?

At Nutrien, my team and I apply sustainability principles across the product value chain by identifying product risks inside and outside our organization and working across departments to integrate sustainability thinking into standards, work processes, and decision making.

Tactical examples include:

  • Product Materials Evaluation: Assessing raw material sources, are they fit for purpose, and what is their sustainability profile?

  • Safer Chemistry Options: Recommending safer ingredient options to Product Development and advising on the presence of banned substances and chemicals of concern.

  • ESG Reporting and Improvement: Supplying product sustainability metrics and developing product sustainability decision profiles

  • Ecological and Social Impact Monitoring: Leading and participating in sector-level impact initiatives such as plastics in the environment, biodiversity, water use, and the application of circular economy principles in agriculture

Our approach is collaborative, no one has all the answers, and the challenges are so large that we need all hands contributing.

Q: Where do you see the world 10 years from now in terms of the Sustainable Development Goals and global sustainable development?

I believe the next 10 years will bring a phenomenal period of sustainable development innovation but given it will take 30 years at best to achieve net-zero emissions, we won’t be far enough along to avoid some serious pain in our way of life.

That means the Sustainable Development Goals will continue to evolve as a future state roadmap and we will have to change our development models to accelerate the rate of progress as much as possible.

  • Sustainability thinking will be a core requirement embedded in many jobs.

  • There will be political, economic, social, and technological setbacks that must be overcome.

  • Companies will collaborate with each other, communities, and NGOs at levels unimagined in today’s environment.

Cheers to a sustainable world!

As our founder, Supriya Verma, always says, sustainability is all about teamwork. Show your support for independent, high-impact publications. Consider donating to The SustainabilityX® Magazine to help us continue our vital work bringing the environment and economy together for a sustainable future through dialogue. Or consider becoming a member for less than US$2 a month and help power international conversations that matter. Cheers to a sustainable world!