Teaching case study on regenerative agriculture with participation from EADA

27 December 2022

Veronica DeveninDr. Verónica Devenin, Professor of Strategy, Leadership and People at EADA and member of the B Academics Board of Directors, has recently been awarded the Silver Award, alongside professors Alfred Vernis and Marcel Planellas from ESADE Business School, for their teaching case on regenerative agriculture by the North American Case Research Association (NACRA) during their 2022 Annual Conference, held in Niagara Falls, Canada.

Their study highlights one of the major challenges of the viticulture sector: the impact of climate change on the quality of grape variety, as drought and high temperatures jeopardise vineyard growth in previously fertile soil. Moreover, attempts to mitigate the current situation, such as the implementation of renewable energies, energy efficiency and sustainable mobility – all of which contribute to reducing the emissions that cause climate change, are not enough, as their effect is greater on a global scale than a local one.

There are two options to address this situation: the first option focuses on abandoning current vineyards and looking for new soil which would produce quality wine, discovering more resilient varieties or using genetics to improve grape quality. The second option centres on regenerating and restoring the health of the soil, its water retention capacity and ability to absorb carbon dioxide.

The second strategy is used to tackle climate change on a local scale, in what is known as regenerative viticulture, and, as the authors of the case study point out, “it goes beyond sustainability”. The Familia Torres winery has been one of the first companies in the sector to adopt a regenerative approach by changing deeply rooted agricultural and cultural practices. According to Devenin, “regeneration implies restoring previously degraded ecosystems, which is a step beyond sustainability, and is understood as a practice that does not harm the environment or generate a negative impact”.

A regenerative approach for business 

The purpose of this teaching case study is to generate classroom debate about the need to integrate a regenerative approach to business. Regenerative agriculture is now a growing trend and some of the leading global food companies have embarked on various projects in this area. One example is Danone, which has declared regenerative agriculture to be at the core of its commitment to reach the zero emissions target in 2050. Unilever has also introduced a regenerative agriculture code for its suppliers. Deverin says, “It will be very interesting to see how these companies proceed, how they resolve difficult issues during the transition process towards regenerative agriculture and to what extent it is integrated”. She adds that, “we will have to differentiate between those companies that apply a limited number of regenerative practices and others that integrate regeneration as a business purpose”.

Agricultura regenerativaRegenerative agriculture is still in its initial phase, “which explains why it is still too early to talk about companies that are doing well and should be followed”, says Devenin. She adds that “there are small and large companies which are starting the process and we have to observe closely how they evolve. This is why it is important to have pedagogical material for companies to explore what a regenerative approach means for their business”.

This trend towards regeneration can also be seen in companies from other sectors. The degradation of ecosystems we depend on and the effects of climate change not only cause an impact on human living conditions but also on business viability. According to Devenin, “companies must not only assess their profitability but also their resilience”. She goes on to say that environmental factors cannot be separated from social aspects: “These changes imply social phenomena that, on their own or through institutional change, generate pressure on companies. For the business world, knowing how to adapt has always been imperative. Today, being more sustainable and more regenerative is the new key to adaptation”.

This teaching case study, which will soon be made available by Harvard Business Publishing, will be addressed in the upcoming IPSERA (International Purchasing & Supply Education & Research Association) conference, which will take place at EADA in April 2023. This is a leading forum where academics and researchers from all over the world will discuss solutions to the social and environmental challenges that affect the area of operations and supply chain. This case study will be used to analyse how to apply a regenerative approach to supply chains.