Greater awareness of health issues, as well as an interest in food production and promotion, has increased political and public concern over farming practices.
Farmers are now being encouraged to be more entrepreneurial and to capitalise on farming environmental credentalls in order to comply with wider environmental concerns. In particular, due to the pressure that they are facing, supermarkets are sourcing more local and ethically produced foods, and customers are increasingly more aware of origin and quality.
Complying with an environmental accreditation gives agricultural producers a trusted mark of environmental responsibility, which is likely to attract more customers to the brand, through the appeal of higher quality produce.
Not only does a mark of accreditation bring with it the benefits of increased corporate social responsibility through showing a commitment towards environmental concerns, but becoming greener also generates cost savings through improving the efficiency of the production process as a whole.
Benefits for the environment
Put in its simplest terms, the environment is quintessential to the well-being of a farm. Without preserving the environment, harm will be caused to the crops cultivated and to the wildlife in the surrounding area. Through the integration of eco initiatives used throughout the farming process, you will significantly lower the negative impacts that harsher practices could have on the environment.
Examples of environmental initiatives:
- Management of marginal areas such as wetlands and forests.
- Adopting production system management strategies, such as not disturbing soil, making use of mulch and covering crops.
- Designing a farm based on the principles of permaculture, which involves designing the land to take advantage of natural ecological processes through integrating a variety of crops, animals, and pests into one system.
- Cultivating a range of crops instead of a monoculture to improve biodiversity and support a range of wildlife.
Benefits for producers
Is it important to ensure that you as a farmer can operate sustainably in order to have a positive impact on the environment, however, what do you gain from doing so?
Here are 5 reasons why it is recommended you should make a conscious effort to operate more sustainably on your farm:
1. Money savings
Farms and businesses that improve resource efficiency will save hundreds to thousands of pounds each year just by making simple changes through building on the initial quick wins gained through resource management. The accredited iiE Environmental Management System (EMS) will enable farms to scale up savings by setting a framework in place for continuous improvement, including taking on bigger initiatives through cost-benefit analysis and impact assessment.
However, often it is difficult for organisations to recognise that sustainable production methods can often be far less expensive. This is mostly due to the fact that they have to change the way they approach their costing structure entirely, by sometimes making more costly investments in the short term, but this will lead to gains in the long term. What most struggle with is the view of taking a holistic approach towards increasing the efficiency of the system as a whole, rather than just focussing on individual parts of the process.
2. Trusted mark of environmentalism
Supply chains prefer accredited farms because they know that the farm has had to meet certain standards in order to qualify, which gives a farm a competitive edge in addition to other savings being made.
Moreover, by being certified for operating environmentally, this demonstrates to customers, suppliers and investors that the business has made a conscious effort to act responsibly. This will give your business a heightened ability to enter into new markets and could also indicate that your business is more likely to offer a high-quality service and product.
3. Increasing customer numbers
Through acting more responsibly, this will increase marketability for your farm because you are more likely to stand out as a reliable and ethical food supplier. This helps to not only increase customer retention but also to increase customer acquisition.
4.Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the ‘feel–good factor’
There’s something different about a business that actually cares for the wider environment and community, and that difference can be an effective selling point. Many opportunities arise from engaging in environmentally-friendly business practice, especially the positive PR that can be gained from demonstrating corporate social responsibility actions. The benefits of this are twofold, firstly it will undoubtedly raise awareness of your brand and secondly, it will create a reason to keep people engaged and interested in your business.
5. Staff engagement
Creating an environment where staff can take part in engagement activities will empower members of your team, which helps to drive productivity as staff contribute more of their time and ideas. Forward-thinking organisations are constantly finding ways of engaging employees, which in turn creates a workforce that is committed to their job and works above and beyond what is required.
Increased motivation amongst an engaged workforce improves the quality of output that is offered because the staff feel part of the ethos and vision of the farm and strive to deliver this, therefore playing a crucial part in your brand’s success.