Clare Mike, technical and business development director of LEAF, explains how LEAF Marque certification helps drive progress towards more sustainable farming and food systems across the world

We all know that we need to act now to improve our collective impact on the environment. That includes retailers and growers, with the latter uniquely placed to be a key part of the solution to climate change across the globe.

In response to this, and along with the Government’s aims to reach net zero by 2050, many retailers have already set out ambitious climate change targets and plans which LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) is supporting – as it has done for over 30 years.

At LEAF, we work with the whole supply chain to drive systemic change to achieve more sustainable global farming and food systems through compliance with the LEAF Marque, a leading glob­al assur­ance sys­tem. LEAF Marque certified growers are independently verified against a robust standard which builds business resilience, reduces climate impact, improves nature and biodiversity, drives supply chain innovation, and engages consumers in recog­nis­ing more sus­tain­ably farmed prod­ucts.

LEAF Marque is underpinned by the principles of Integrated Farm Management (IFM), a whole farm, site-specific approach combining the best of modern technology and traditional farming methods. IFM is made up of nine interrelated core areas, including Landscape and Nature Conservation, Water Management, Soil Management and Fertility, and Energy Efficiency, all of which deliv­er more sus­tain­able farm­ing by con­tribut­ing to eco­nom­ic per­for­mance, envi­ron­men­tal qual­i­ty and social health.

We are firm believers in the importance of communication and collaboration, and we work with like-minded organisations that share our vision for more sustainable food and farming systems. For example, LEAF Marque supports retailers in meeting the commitments of the WWF Basket Metric, a set of outcomes and measures that support the goal of halving UK shopping baskets’ environmental impact by 2030. LEAF is also a signatory to the Courtauld Agreement, enabling collaboration across the food chain in core areas including reducing carbon emissions.

LEAF Marque-certified businesses currently operate in 23 countries, with the total expected to reach 50 by 2025. Six major UK retailers (Aldi, Asda, Lidl, M&S, Tesco, and Waitrose) are already working with LEAF to support growers to meet the requirements of the LEAF Marque Standard. A recent example of success was the Farming with Nature programme at M&S, in partnership with LEAF, which has enabled growers to strengthen their pollinator farming practices across the UK with support from agri-tech company AgriSound. In addition, all of Tesco’s UK fruit and vegetable growers are now LEAF Marque certified, with plans for its entire global fresh produce supply chain to be certified by 2025.

I would urge the whole industry to listen to growers to gain a greater understanding of the current challenges they are facing, and collectively support them with the growing pressures to deliver more sustainable practices whilst meeting important environmental targets.

No matter what, everyone in the industry must work together to address these challenges, improve the environmental impact across the supply chain, and drive systemic change. LEAF Marque certification offers a powerful catalyst to achieve this.