Syngenta AG (Syngenta) is a Swiss-based agrochemical company founded in 2000, following the merger of Novartis Agribusiness and Zeneca Agrochemicals. In October 2017, ChemChina secured a $45 billion takeover after its participation in Syngenta exceeded 98% of Syngenta’s share capital. Syngenta offers a wide range of field crops, vegetable and flower seed and agrochemicals. Products are sold through independent distributors and dealers as well as directly to farmers. The company’s non-profit organization, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, focuses specifically on pre-commercial smallholder farmers and has projects in all four index regions.

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Global Seed Companies

Summary of results:

Syngenta ranks second in the 2019 Index, effectively on par with its peer in third place. The company is a clear leader in Governance & Strategy, as it was in the 2016 Index, with its annual Good Growth Plan continuing to be a leading example of holistic and transparent reporting of corporate sustainability and smallholder farmer strategies and targets. Syngenta outperforms its global peers in terms of improving the enabling environment for the seed industry at both the regional and national level across the two African index regions. The company has positions favoring smallholders in both Genetic Resources and Intellectual Property, and a diverse set of programs in Capacity Building that integrate ICT and output market access and cater, albeit infrequently, to next-generation and women farmers. The company’s weakest area is Research & Development, which can partially be attributed to limited disclosure related to these activities, as well as a relatively narrow geographic and crop focus in the programs that are reported. No evidence was found of breeding for local crops in the index regions.

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Operations in Scope
  • Countries in Scope
  • Company Presence
  • Production Locations
  • Breeding Station/R&D
Index Crops in Portfolio
Field crops
Beans, dry
Pigeon pea
Rice, paddy
Green bean
Green pea
Pepper (hot)
Pepper (sweet)
Leading Practices

    The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are central to Syngenta’s Good Growth Plan, which forms the basis of the company’s sustainability strategy. The plan contributes generally to SDGs 2 (Zero Hunger) and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals), and the company has a key goal to reach 20 million smallholders and enable them to increase their productivity 50% by 2020. Syngenta demonstrates transparency by reporting a 2.7 million drop in the number of smallholders reached through sales in 2017, primarily because of a sharp decline in corn acreage in China.

    The Syngenta Foundation’s Seeds2B program focuses explicitly on improving access to seeds for smallholder farmers and has completed and ongoing programs across index countries in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. The program also works on policy harmonization and liberalization with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD), national seed committees and national agricultural research systems (NARS).

    One of the six commitments of the Good Growth Plan is to ‘Look after every worker’. The company has worked with the Fair Labor Association (FLA) since 2004, and in 2015 Syngenta became the first agricultural company to receive FLA accreditation for its work in India. In 2017, the Fair Labor Program covered 86% of the company’s seed supply farms, with index countries Kenya, South Africa and Zambia being covered most recently, following Colombia and Paraguay in 2016.

Areas for Improvement

    Although the Syngenta Foundation reports supporting breeding collaborations in index countries, Syngenta only discloses in the broadest terms information about its breeding programs in field crops and vegetables. The company is encouraged to disclose more information on the scope of these activities and whether they consider the particular needs of smallholder farmers.

    Despite being the leading company in Transparency, the company can improve disclosure on the availability of its portfolio worldwide and especially in the index countries where it has a presence.

Notable Findings

    The company reports that smallholder farmers are an integral part of its customer base in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In 2017 Syngenta reached 13.9 million smallholders through crop protection and seed sales, accounting for approximately 10% of global seed sales. In particular, smallholders make up 90% of the company’s clientele in the Western and Central Africa index region. In both Eastern and Southern Africa and South and Southeast Asia index regions this figure is 60%, and in the Latin America index region 35%.

    The Syngenta Foundation has two programs to help create an enabling environment for seed activities, predominantly in Africa and Asia. Its Connect program identifies and assesses the performance of new varieties and de-risks entry for distribution, while its Build program facilitates the licensing of public-bred varieties for private companies and develops the market for smallholder farmers.

    Syngenta worked with the Sustainable Markets Intelligence Center, the Sustainable Food Lab and other partners to conduct social impact assessments in India, Indonesia, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Zambia. The assessments guide the company on how to improve agronomic, environmental and safe-use training to enable smallholder farmers to achieve higher yields.

    Syngenta, alongside global peer Bayer, is involved in the public-private Farm to Market Alliance, which aims to enhance smallholder farmers’ access to output markets, finance streams, agricultural inputs and postharvest storage in Eastern and Southern Africa. Since launching in 2015, the program has interacted with 150,000 farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia.

    Syngenta and the Syngenta Foundation provide regulatory and stewardship support to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for the Golden Rice initiative, despite stating that it has no commercial interest in the project.

    Syngenta’s e-licensing system TraitAbility gives breeders, companies and public research institutes access to many of their plant-related innovations. It is free to use for research, breeding and development purposes.

    The Syngenta Foundation partners with USAID Feed the Future Innovation Labs to trial tropically adapted varieties of soybean in Indonesia, Kenya, Mali and Malawi, and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in the Affordable, Accessible, Asian Drought Tolerant Maize Project for the specific purpose of providing varieties to resource-poor smallholder farmers in marginal environments across three drought-prone Indian states.

    Syngenta’s UWEZO scheme develops and promotes the introduction of small and affordable packages tailored to the needs of smallholder farmers. The company also uses pictograms to help overcome language and literacy barriers. In 2017, the company reached 440,000 smallholders in Africa.

    Syngenta’s Farm Family Training on Stewardship program arranges meetings for farmers, their wives and children focusing on agricultural solutions alongside an attempt to break down traditional barriers to entry. By 2017, the program had reached approximately 27,000 Bangladeshi participants across 600 separate activities.

    The Syngenta Foundation was a driving force behind the Farmforce mobile app, which was independently rolled out in 2017 and is available in a number of index countries across the globe. The app tracks all farm activity, which increases traceability and compliance for buyers/exporters and improves access to formal output markets for smallholder providers.

    Syngenta collaborated with TechnoServe in the Mavuno Zaidi (Grow More) program to train 20,000 Kenyan smallholders, of which one third were women, in best practices for growing potatoes and tomatoes. Although it is outside the index crop scope, Syngenta is also working toward gender equality in Colombia by helping women coffee farmers to improve their local ecosystems by planting trees.

    The Syngenta Foundation, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation and the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) launched a project to foster youth entrepreneurship, strengthen market linkages and enhance livelihoods for next-generation rice farmers in Mali and Senegal. The program plans to target 15,000 rural youths through ICT channels.