More than one billion people around the world continue to live in extreme poverty. And as the world population is estimated to soar to nine billion by 2050, The United Nations (UN) is urging world leaders to address the sustainable development challenges of ending poverty, increasing social inclusion, and sustaining the planet.

As a result, the United Nations Secretary-General announced the launch of its Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) on August 9, 2012 to help address these issues.

Earlier this year, Leslie O'Donoghue, Agrium's Chief Risk Officer and Executive Vice President of Corporate Development & Strategy was named to the UN's Leadership Council and is the only Canadian representative on the Council. Agrium is also proud to represent the agriculture industry in this prominent leadership role.

Also known as The Solutions Network, the Council's goal is to mobilize scientific and technical expertise from academia, civil society and the private sector in support of sustainable development problem solving at local, national and global levels.

By working to accelerate joint learning, the group "helps to overcome the compartmentalization of technical and policy work by promoting integrated approaches to the interconnected economic, social, and environmental challenges confronting the world."

Structured around 12 Thematic Groups of global experts, the Council is working to identify common solutions and highlight best practices. Specifically, the UN sees investing in agriculture as one of the most effective strategies for achieving critical post-2015 development goals related to poverty and hunger, nutrition and health, education, economic and social growth, peace and security, and preserving the world's environment.

Doug Beever, Agrium's senior director, Sustainability & Stakeholder Relations says a great example in how the agriculture industry is fervently working to meet this demand, is through the fertilizer sector's development of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship System.

"The 4R system works to continuously improve environmental, social, and economic performance," explains Beever. "With the support of stakeholders, this system accomplishes continual improvement through the application of best management practices in the performance areas of nutrient source rate, time, placement.

Practices must be regionally specific to local cropping systems, soils and climatic conditions to be effective. They must also be applied in all four performance areas to achieve the desired economic, social and environmental goals. This recognizes that one size fits all approaches are unlikely to sustainably improve performance in the long term."

O'Donoghue says she is very honoured to be a part of The Solutions Network. "Our involvement in such a prestigious group illustrates how Agrium continues to strive for excellence in finding tangible solutions for complex global issues such as sustainability."