Leave It

 By Curt Blades, AEM Senior Vice President of Ag Services

The often-paraphrased quote from Lord Robert Baden-Powell is a motto my family worked to instill in me at an early age. If we borrowed a neighbor’s vehicle, we always returned it clean and full of fuel. If we acquired a new piece of farmland, we were quick to develop a plan to improve the land. No matter the situation or circumstances, our resolve was always to leave something better than we found it.

Now, years later, my understanding – and appreciation of – the phrase has grown exponentially.

As equipment manufacturers, leaving something better than you found it can take on several different meanings. We produce the equipment that builds, feeds and develops the infrastructure needed to power the world around us. Ultimately, those products are essential in making that world a better place than we found it. However, the phrase changes when used within the context of today’s conversations related to sustainability and the environment.

And today, as we celebrate Earth Day 2021, I’m reminded of the ever-increasing need to not only focus on driving industrial progress for equipment manufacturing, but also on building momentum for a sustainable future.

Fortunately, we are quickly learning we are capable of accomplishing both. It’s no secret the innovative and cutting-edge equipment of today is far better than the offerings produced in years past. Not only are they more fuel efficient and leave a lighter environmental footprint, but they allow for more precision in farming and construction. These products are truly an important part of the solution to our environmental concerns.

The equipment itself, though, is just the beginning of the environmental story our industry is ready to share. In fact, it’s how products are used by farmers and operators that ultimately determines its positive impact on the world around us.

For more than 125 years, AEM has brought together manufacturers of off-road equipment for the good of its members, the customers they serve, and society as a whole. Our earliest members learned a foundational lesson, one which drives the association’s activities even now: By working together, they could address the concerns of the time – issues such as worker safety, conservation, machine standards, infrastructure, and regulatory reform, all of which remain at the heart of our mission today.

We also recognize the importance of contributing to a sustainable future as being a critical part of that mission. It’s why AEM’s Sustainability Council was established. This council, comprised of a cross-section of member companies, helps provide a framework for the equipment industry to adopt best practices to advance their efforts in addressing issues of sustainability. And while our work is just beginning, the council has embraced its role as a catalyst for driving change and, eventually, making the world a little better than we found it.

So, as I reflect on the mission at hand for equipment manufacturers and the construction, forestry, agriculture, mining and utility industries, I’m reminded of a formative memory from my childhood

My family had purchased a piece of land near our farm. As my father and I walked across a field, one which had severely neglected by the previous owner, he pointed to a particular deep gully in disgust while sharing his plans to improve the field with waterways, drainage terraces, and a crop rotation plan.

The moment served as the first time I was able to make the connective relationship between humanity and the environment.

The details of the plans for that particular piece of ground have long since been forgotten. But I will always remember the lesson about our duty to improve the land we tend. More significantly, this remains a lifelong reminder of the importance of engaging in the conversation and taking action to leave the world a little better than we found it.

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