Westchester hires ex-LDC exec in ESG and sustainability role

Cristina Hastings Newsome hopes a natural capital base accounting for a broader set of opportunities beyond carbon will strengthen collaboration with producers.

Westchester Group Investment Management has hired a former Louis Dreyfus Company executive to assume a newly created position as head of sustainability and ESG for the farmland-focused Nuveen affiliate.

Cristina Hastings Newsome told Agri Investor her role as global sustainability lead for LDC focused on global supply chains stretching across Latin America, Europe and Asia for soybeans and palm oil. The position included direct engagement with producers, customers and fellow ABCDs that Hastings Newsome said she hopes to build on in her Geneva-based role with Westchester.

“There was a need to work with producers and to some extent with clients, but the trade could only do so through nudging and purchase contracts. There were not that many tools that they could use – other than purchasing criteria – to really influence,” she said. “What’s exciting about Westchester and the role that it plays is that it’s got potential to really bring more thought leadership and implementation of tactics to advance this conversation across the value chain.”

Hastings Newsome’s LinkedIn profile shows she spent more than nine years at LDC, where her position included management of NGO relationships, leading transparency reporting and serving as chair for the sustainability working group of the European vegetable oil and protein meal industry association.

She also served as a value chain lead for an oilseed-focused initiative by the World Economic Forum’s Tropical Rainforest Alliance and held strategic planning and consulting positions with and UK-headquartered pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, consultants Accenture and the BBC before joining LDC in March 2012.

Hastings Newsome said her role with Westchester will focus first on building on the firm’s existing sustainability initiatives and facilitating collaboration on sustainability among a broad group of actors that includes producers, NGOs and investors, among others.

“It’s quite important to keep that multi-stakeholder, value chain mindset and the objectivity that you need in as complex and networked an ecosystem as ours really is,” said Hastings Newsome. “We need to listen and dialogue with all of those perspectives and have an empathy with all those perspectives because it’s only then that we’ll be able to shape and create a more informed and relevant sustainability journey.”

Westchester’s existing sustainability policies and regenerative ag practices were described in a May white paper organized around its efforts to protect soil quality, preserve air and water resources, manage pests systematically and enhance biodiversity.

Among the initiatives it described were Westchester’s use of cover crops and no-till production in Brazil; construction of solar facilities and groundwater recharge projects in California and the planting of flowers to help preserve bee populations and enhance crop pollination on properties in Poland.

Hastings Newsome said Westchester’s plans call for building a more resilient natural capital base that accounts a broader set of biodiversity and water quality measures beyond carbon that can help provide the basis for deeper collaboration with producers.

“Practices may deliver resilience in the longer-term, but in the shorter-term, it has a cost and resource impact so it’s critical to bring along the business units and the operators on the ground,” she said. “One needs to build a bottom-up business case together with our partners on the ground to put in place strategies which bring them along with us.”