Cem Tolga Korkut, General Manager and Shareholder at Kut San in Turkey (left) poses for a photo with his Corteva representative Harun Toksoz.

The Environmental Respect Awards program kicked off Monday evening with the annual poster session. The representatives of 18 companies began Celebration Week, Corteva Agriscience’s weeklong recognition of companies rewarded for their commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability.

The program is sponsored by Cortvea and presented by CropLife and AgriBusiness Global magazines. The honorees recognized during celebration week were selected from scores of entries from around the world. These regional winners were invited to Celebration Week, which is being held in Washington, D.C.

The night opened with an opportunity for all the regional winners to review a poster-sized presentation of photos and highlights of the activities that earned them recognition. These posters will be displayed again later in the week where the delegates from around the world signing and sharing messages of encouragement from their new friends.

ERA has many purposes. In addition to recognizing the companies from around the world for their work, the program helps share the importance agriculture to the non-ag world. As Ray Forney, Global Product Stewardship for Corteva put it, "The rest of the world doesn’t understand modern agriculture."

The significance of the moment was not lost on the honorees.

Keith Fricke, Prairieland FS, Labelle, MO, (left) talks with Corteva Agriscience's Director of Global Stewardship, Bill Belzer, during the Environmental Respect Awards poster session event.

“Being in this room after listening to all these people is humbling,” said Keith Fricke, Prairieland FS, Labelle, MO, one of the winners from the U.S. region. In all 17 companies were named regional winners

The company’s facility is relatively new, Fricke says of the facility that is being honored, “but being new alone does not make it an environmentally friendly facility. It has to be managed right. It has to be operated right. You can be an environmental steward. You can be productive. You can be efficient also. Those are things people in our industry don’t think are synonymous, but they truly are.”

That was a message shared by many throughout the evening. But programs like the Environmental Respect Awards can help change that notion. The companies will return to their homes and not only operate their businesses in environmentally sound ways, but also a mandate to share their new-found learnings with their peers, their communities, and their governments.

“One thing I love about this award, for not just our company, but our industry,” Fricke says. “In agriculture, what we do a very poor job on is bragging about ourselves, talking about our accomplishments, our stewardship. We are the true environmentalists.”

Following the poster session, drinks, appetizers, and dinner, the guests were treated to brief videos that again highlighted what separates these companies from others in their countries.

“Congratulations. And welcome to Washington, D.C.,” said Bill Belzer, Corteva’s Director of Global Stewardship. “From all parts of the world, we have incredible stars. You are all winners of the World Cup or the Super Bowl. We have winners in our presence. It’s not a little thing; it’s a global thing. And it’s impactful.”

One of the most amazing aspects of Celebration Week is how quickly these companies from around the world, who had no idea of the others’ existences become fast friends. Indeed, by the end of their first evening together, the honorees had already begun to mingle. A representative of Prarieland FS was talking with a colleague from New Zealand’s Farmlands Cooperative. Another Farmlands representative was talking with Corteva’s sales rep from Kenya. And there were several others. By then end of the week, many fast, long-lasting friendships will develop.