The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it fundamental change across the world and shone a spotlight squarely on the challenges posed by a fragile global food ecosystem and the disruptive impact climate change has upon it. As such, it is vital that food producers, businesses and local farmers implement sustainable practices.

This is according to Unathi Mhlatyana, MD at McCain Foods South Africa who says that globally, more than a quarter of the carbon emissions that contribute to climate change come from the growing and processing of food. “Considering that the United Nations predicts the population to increase to 9.7 billion in 2050 from 7.9 billion currently, it is vital that current farming practices change, otherwise feeding the world in 30 years will require an 87% increase in carbon emissions.”

It is for this reason that McCain is placing further emphasis on its global sustainability journey. “While sustainability has always been a part of what we do, it wasn’t until last year that we set out clear commitments and measured our progress with the release of our first Global Sustainability Report.”

As such, Mhlatyana outlines the new commitments the company has made to minimise the impact of climate change and improve food security:

Smart and Sustainable Farming: Against a backdrop of an ever-growing population, climate change, soil degradation, biodiversity loss and food waste, the future of the global food system is at risk. Re-imagining a more sustainable way to grow a potato is a key element on our journey to more planet-friendly food. As such, McCain aims to implement regenerative agriculture practices on 100% of its potato acreage by 2030, reducing CO2/tonne from potato farming, storage and freight by 25% as well as improve water-use efficiency by 15% in water-stressed regions by 2025.

Resource-Efficient Operations: Collectively, from farm to plate, the global food system accounts for more than a quarter of global CO2 emissions. Therefore, McCain aims to cut emissions from its operations by 50% by the end of the decade, with a corresponding move to 100% renewable electricity.

By 2025, the company is committed to using 100% of every potato harvested with zero waste going to landfill, and 100% of its packaging will be recyclable, reusable or compostable.

Good Food: Food safety and quality should be at the forefront of any food service company. However, the pandemic caused the widespread closure of food service outlets and testing delays because of restricted lab access due to COVID safety precautions.

In this challenging year, McCain kept its focus on ensuring a continuity of supply to customers and communities. But looking ahead, it remains committed to producing more food with recognizable ingredients, removing all palm oil from McCain-branded products by 2025, reducing sodium in potato and appetizer products by 15% and expanding its healthy food offering.

Building Thriving Communities: Many of McCain operations are established in rural communities. As such, the company is committed to the long-term development, education and support of both farmers and families in our local areas.

The pandemic highlighted the fragility of communities around the world. In response, over the course of the pandemic, McCain and the McCain Foundation have donated the equivalent of more than 53 million meals globally and have doubled their partnerships with food banks around the world.

By 2025, McCain is committing to donating 200 million meals to food banks and NGOs worldwide, providing 50,000 employee volunteer hours and improving the livelihoods of 10,000 growers and families.

For each of the pillars mentioned above McCain South Africa has a set of commitments that ladders back to the global commitments.

“Since the release of the 2019 report, McCain has increased its usage of renewable energy by 5% and seen a 6% drop in CO2  emissions. We are looking forward to continuing on this positive trajectory now and into the future,” concludes Mhlatyana.

Read more about McCain’s commitment to sustainable agriculture in Together, Towards Planet-Friendly Food, 2020 Global Sustainability Report at