An Interview with DuPont’s Chief Sustainability Officer
Krysta Harden joined DuPont in February 2016 as the company’s Vice President of Public Policy and second Chief Sustainability Officer. Prior to joining DuPont, she served as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), where she helped to shape national food and agriculture policy.
Krysta recently shared her views about what it means to be sustainable and how sustainability links to food security.
Q: Sustainability is a term that can mean different things to different people. What does it mean to you?
I was raised on a farm in Georgia. When you grow up working that close to the land, I think understanding the importance of sustainability comes naturally even if the term isn’t explicitly used. Farmers know the importance of balancing the needs of the land with their own needs. They also understand how tenuous that balance can be and the incredible work ethic required to preserve it. That’s the fundamental challenge of sustainability: preserving balance between the integrity of our resources and the needs of our planet’s people. You see that need for balance reflected in things like the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which cover areas like economic growth, hunger and poverty, and infrastructure development as well as climate change and resource degradation. There’s a dynamic tension between some of these areas that requires unique solutions or entirely new ways of doing and making things. That’s why innovation companies like DuPont are so vital — they have the scientific and engineering know how, as well as the market knowledge, to bridge the divide between two sets of goals that might otherwise appear in competition.
Q: Why are food security and sustainability so closely linked?
Achieving global food security is important to every person on this planet. It is an issue that sits at the heart of our ability to forge a sustainable future, feed a growing population, tackle climate change, and deliver long-term prosperity to an increasingly diverse base of farmers. The challenge is figuring out ways to accomplish these goals as the world’s resources become increasingly stressed.
The world’s agricultural systems must evolve to feed the estimated 9 billion people who will inhabit our planet by 2050. The UN estimates that global food demand will increase by 60% during this time frame. Unfortunately, we are not even meeting the needs of today’s generation. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that nearly 800 million people around the world lack access to a safe and nutritious supply of food. Global agriculture absolutely must evolve to meet both current shortfalls and future demand without adding more pressure to our food systems or contributing to problems like deforestation and climate change. There really isn’t an alternative, it’s a problem we must solve.
Read more about Krysta’s views in the 2016 DuPont Sustainability Progress Highlights.