As a homegrown Midwesterner, I’m thrilled to be writing this from Minneapolis after returning from six years living in Asia. My name is Ryan Whisnant and I recently joined Environmental Initiative as the new Managing Director of the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative. I couldn’t be more excited to tackle the complex and critical issues related to the sustainability of our food and agriculture system—issues directly relevant to the Midwest, but with much broader impact. The world needs more innovative and transformative solutions for feeding a growing population while reducing our impact on the environment.
THE COLLABORATIVE AND MY ROLE
The Collaborative is a relatively new program, launched about three years ago through the vision of a group of leading companies. Environmental Initiative began serving as the administrator for the Collaborative in 2019, leveraging its experience managing diverse stakeholders in coalitions focused on environmental outcomes. It also brings the strength of innovative partnership-building activities through its agriculture programs in the Midwest.
The Collaborative is comprised of businesses and nonprofits that span the full food and agriculture value chain. Members are Bayer, Cargill, Environmental Defense Fund, Kellogg Company, Land O’Lakes, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, The Nature Conservancy, Unilever, Walmart and World Wildlife Fund.
Collaborative members are aligned around a bold, common ambition: to drive positive environmental outcomes in the Upper Mississippi River Basin, and to support farmers by finding ways to improve soil health and increase resilience. The aim is to create a U.S. agricultural system that is part of a healthy environmental ecosystem and is economically viable for all in the value chain.
Members work together to tackle issues that can’t be solved alone by developing, funding and implementing cutting-edge programs and pilot projects that substantiate the water, air and soil benefits of sustainable agricultural practices and pave the way for broader change in the agricultural system.
Part of my role is to engage the members to understand their strengths and priorities, and where they can have the greatest impact in the Collaborative’s work. My goal is to build on the groundwork already laid and the momentum generated by a strong and enthusiastic set of members. I look forward to exploring with the Collaborative members how we can forge partnerships that can remove cost, risk and knowledge barriers to the implementation of sustainable agricultural practices, working together to build models that bring sustainable solutions to scale.
MY SUSTAINABILITY JOURNEY
In this new role, I bring more than 15 years of experience working with companies, NGOs, financial institutions and development organizations. As a Corporate Sustainability Director and International Program Officer, I’ve worked at bridging business and sustainable development across several domains, including energy and climate, oceans, forests and biodiversity, conservation investment and sustainable agriculture. While based in New York City, I established the sustainability office for a $4.5B technology company operating in 30 countries. I’ve enjoyed advising Fortune 500 clients on their strategy and operations in my independent practice and as part of a sustainability advisory firm. I spent six years living in Asia, where I helped to transform an 11-country partnership-based ocean conservation program into a $3M+ international organization.
Outside of the office, I enjoy cross-country and downhill skiing, running, backpacking and traveling with my wife and daughter. I’m excited to engage with the Collaborative members and other partners and stakeholders as we work together toward a more sustainable agricultural system. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-334-3388 ext. 8124.