Sustainable farming charity LEAF has set an ambitious new target for 85 per cent of allUK fruit and vegetables to be covered by LEAF Marque certification within the next five years.

If achieved, the target will see the amount of UK fresh produce grown by LEAF Marque-certified businesses almost double by 2026.

Founded in 1991, LEAF works with farmers, retailers and brands across the food supply chain to deliver more regenerative, nature-based farming.

All Waitrose’s UK-grown fresh produce has been LEAF Marque certified for the past 14 years and LEAF recently announced it is now also working with Tesco to implement the LEAF Marque across its entire global fresh produce supply chain.

The retailer said the move would strengthen the environmental standards required by its 14,000 fresh produce growers.

In addition, earlier this month PepsiCo announced plans for its 300-plus UK-based Quaker Oats farmers to achieve LEAF certification over the next two years.

LEAF chief executive Caroline Drummond MBE said: “With global food demand set to double by 2050, and only nine harvests before the 2030 deadline for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the need to protect, sustainably manage and restore the earth’s resources whilst producing food is essential.

“LEAF Marque growers are already leading the way in tackling climate change through reducing carbon emissions, building healthier and more resilient soils, delivering better air and water quality and enhancing biodiversity.

“This is why we are committed to working across the food supply chain over the next five years to see 85 per cent of UK-grown fruit and vegetables being grown by LEAF Marque certified businesses.”

Currently, 39 per cent of the 524 LEAF Marque farmers in Britain use a carbon footprint tool, 42 per cent are recording soil organic matter, and 67 per cent use one or more types of renewable energy generation on-farm.

A further 83 per cent manage reservoirs for water quality, safety and wildlife, and 84 per cent regularly monitor animal welfare indicators.

Drummond added: “Scaling up the reach and impact of all our work will require us to develop deeper, extended business partnerships and new business models.

“Our pledge to drive a more climate-positive fresh produce sector in the UK, evidenced through LEAF Marque, feeds into our wider 10-year strategy to raise the ‘sustainability bar’ across all farming sectors.

“There will be challenges ahead but as we look beyond the COP26 summit, the leadership being shown by Waitrose, Tesco and Quaker Oats UK signals a hugely transformative moment for the health of our planet.”