21/11/2022 - Violaine de Reforest'Action
1/ Can you tell us more about your approach as Senior Advisor Climate & Biodiversity Solutions? What type of work do you do with companies?
My work involves engaging companies in projects to restore, preserve or regenerate (agro)forest ecosystems to respond concretely to climate and biodiversity issues.
I encourage them to develop ambitious strategies that go far beyond reducing their negative impacts on life. Indeed, the scale of the environmental crises demands that we go much further and faster. Businesses must do more to regenerate natural ecosystems - generating a net positive impact based on evidence of efficient models.
Therefore, I propose various solutions, including developing regenerative agriculture projects implemented within companies' value chains. They can bring about a fundamental transformation in their production patterns. We need this to achieve the internationally agreed climate and biodiversity targets.
Not all companies have a direct link with living things, but creative solutions are possible for all of them. They can also participate in projects that meet specific demands: to establish urban forests, contribute to global carbon neutrality, or finance forestry projects.
We work with many companies: over 3,000 companies in the last decade! However, I work with players from the luxury sector.
2/ You develop regenerative agriculture projects. Can you illustrate your intervention through an example of actions carried out in a territory?
Yes, we have developed various regenerative agriculture projects in the vineyards with companies such as Hennessy, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, and Krugg. For example, we have been experimenting with multiple techniques since 2021 as part of a pilot project with the Ruinart champagne house. It integrates the methods of vitiforestry - i.e., the application of agroforestry techniques to the vineyard.
The project is based on typical regenerative agriculture processes and thus generates many multifunctional benefits.
First, regenerative agriculture seeks to regenerate soil health with a dual objective of mitigation and adaptation. It also helps to preserve water and safeguard biodiversity. For example, hedges planted in and around vineyards help to limit the aerial drift of phytosanitary products that are harmful to living organisms. More generally, it also seeks to mitigate climate change.
Trees participate in regulating the climate. For example, they bring support to lower the temperature by several degrees. They can also help limit frosts or droughts. They also act as hedges against the wind, protecting the vines within a few meters. Furthermore, experience shows that ecological corridors establish links between wild areas through fields and vineyards.
Finally, this wine-forestry project makes it possible to recreate disappeared traditional landscapes! Moreover, aided by the development of science, this ancient practice dating back to antiquity brings socio-economic benefits. From a societal point of view, such regeneration meets the growing needs of consumers for a quality product with minimal impact on natural resources. From an economic point of view, a gain in productivity in biomass has been observed thanks to the arrangement of specific tree and vine species, for example.
3/ How does this regenerative agriculture benefit businesses?
Vitiforestry allows yields, inputs, and resources to be optimized - not maximized.
The practices lead to more resilient systems in the face of climatic instability and ensure more significant health and vitality for farming communities and stakeholders. In addition, they generate substantial economic returns.
Regenerative agriculture often relies on experiments based on outcome targets. So it is often referred to as impact farming. In our projects, we can aim for different objectives such as carbon contribution, promotion of biodiversity, or soil health. We are free to choose among diverse methods to focus on restoring, preserving, or regenerating ecosystems, for example.
With regenerative agriculture, it is legitimate to seek long-term profit maximization. We do not seek to achieve this through yield maximization - this is the mindset of so-called conventional agriculture. It is more about optimizing yields, inputs, and resources to develop more profitable and sustainable models than our current system.
4/ More broadly, do you, therefore, consider that a regenerative economy is possible?
Beyond agriculture, we now must reconsider new economic models for business. Businesses must support the dynamics of life - instead of destroying them. It must stop being an exploitative and destructive agent of resources. Regeneration also allows the company to renew itself, become more resilient, and return to desired outcomes.
The regenerative company, therefore, goes beyond the traditional CSR criteria that are too focused on reducing negative impacts and externalities. Moreover, regeneration is not a subject limited to the CSR department. It is a subject that must be integrated into all the company's businesses and irrigate all its actions. It requires the adoption of a systemic approach, the promotion of local design, and bio-inspired design. Regeneration also encourages the desire to foster cooperation and relationships within ecosystems.
Daily, this commitment can be challenging! I must deal with a particular complexity specific to each organization. Regenerating is indeed an act that requires reconciling: collective intelligence, cooperation, creativity, openness, innovation, and ethics!
Our exchanges and projects in collaboration with companies are evidence of this awareness!
Crédits photos : Maison Ruinart et Mathieu Bonnevie.