On December 3rd 2021 we published the report Soil in the UK Supply Chain: How the food and drink industry can support the transition to sustainable, regenerative agriculture and Net Zero, ahead of World Soil Day on 5th December. The report was commissioned by the WWF and Tesco Partnership to examine the soil health initiatives pursued by major food and drink businesses in the UK.
Our online research and interviews with 25 retailers and manufacturers identified over 50 business-led initiatives that directly or indirectly influence the management of the soil by their farming suppliers. However, it demonstrated that efforts by major food and drink businesses to promote soil management throughout their supply chains will not have a tangible impact on Net Zero, biodiversity or sustainable farming outcomes without a more ambitious, strategic, collaborative and targeted approach.
The report sets out five recommendations to food and drink businesses, underpinned by 15 suggestions for action:
- Ensure you and your intermediates suppliers are not contributing inadvertently to increased soil degradation and decline. Use all mechanisms (advisors, contracts, certification schemes) to embed regulatory compliance and safeguards against soil-damaging practices into supplier relations.
- Show your commitment is real, tangible, traceable and measurable. Develop metrics and performance indicators that connect corporate regenerative ambitions with on-the-ground projects - and regularly and publicly report on progress against them.
- Make the most of available and future research. Ensure it translates into practice change on the ground as widely as possible.
- Be a catalyst for system-wide change. Spread ambition and best practice throughout the industry both vertically – via intermediaries that source on your behalf - and horizontally to competitors and hard to reach/invisible supply chains.
- Anticipate and address farmer needs at a time of great uncertainty. Demonstrate alignment with policy-makers, market forces and other drivers through whole system thinking, consistent metrics and leadership.