New Greener Farms Commitment module will become available from 1 April next year
Red Tractor’s Greener Farms Commitment (GFC) will be available from 1 April 2024, the assurance scheme’s board has confirmed.
Red Tractor has been working on the environment module since 2020, recognising that the pressure on Retail, Out Of Home (OOH) operators and brands to source their primary produce more sustainably could lead to a multitude of audit demands on the supply chain and particularly farmers.
Meeting market demand
The additional, voluntary module is designed to meet the needs of the market with a single consistent industry approach, offering farmers, processors and packers one set of common criteria. The GFC has received the support of businesses represented by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
Andrew Opie from the BRC said: ”Retailers are under increasing pressure to disclose how their sourcing policies promote positive management of soil, water and biodiversity both to consumers and investors. The new Red Tractor Greener Farms Commitment optional module offers the opportunity for farmers to deliver that assurance in a consistent, efficient scheme.
”Farmers in other countries are already embarking on similar schemes but we feel the Red Tractor scheme puts British farmers in the strongest position to demonstrate their credentials alongside quality and provenance to British consumers.”
Red Tractor stressed that getting universal support has meant interviewing every major retailer, OOH operator and many leading brands; ensuring alignment with Defra’s Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI); meeting the aims of critical organisations such as WWF and WRAP; conducting cost versus benefit research through the Andersons Centre; and running trials with 25 farms.
Farming with environmental focus
Red Tractor explained that its GFC is a voluntary addition that will operate very differently from its typical core standards. It enables farmers to make commitments and track their own progress across five key areas for environmentally focused farming: carbon footprinting; soil management; nutrient management; waste management; and biodiversity.
It will recognise other schemes or programmes such as the SFI and other devolved government schemes, reducing the cost and complexity, and making it as easy as possible for farmers to complete.
The GFC will have its own logo, enabling farmers and British agriculture to demonstrate their environmental credentials to consumers, while also differentiating the high quality of British products compared to international competition.
A different approach
From 1 April 2024, the scheme will be open to the supply chain across all sectors where members are already certified against Red Tractor’s core standards. However, the GFC is designed to be a very different experience for farmers who choose to take part.
The GFC will be administered by Red Tractor directly, rather than by appointed certification bodies. Unlike core standards, the GFC does not require the same thing at every farm, but instead requires farmers to register a plan for progress that is unique to their circumstances, and then measure their success and learning against that.
Red Tractor is setting up a dedicated Development Advisory Panel (DAP) to oversee the detail, operation, and evolution of the GFC. Its first task will be to give feedback on the technical content of the module before it is finalised and published.
This will help to ensure its practical application by sector, Red Tractor said. The DAP will include representation from across the supply chain including experts from Red Tractor’s Sector Boards and Technical Advisory Committees, plus third-party expertise where required.
Red Tractor chief executive Jim Moseley said: “We’re providing the supply chain with a definitive timetable for making the Greener Farms Commitment available on 1 April next year. With support from so many major retailers, the sector has a unique opportunity to make this common industry approach work.
“The initiative takes a new approach which will offer benefits to everyone. It gives Red Tractor farmers a new way of differentiating their product and a consistent framework to talk about their environmental credentials. The GFC is designed to protect farmers from future audit demands, costs and complexity. While some farmers may not be facing these questions from their customers yet, there is clear evidence from some agricultural sectors that alternative schemes have added cost, duplication and complexity for Red Tractor farmers.
“For processors and packers, the common industry approach should reduce the need for a multitude of product lines to be segregated, which could be substantial if customers start to develop their own bespoke programmes. For retailers, out of home operators and brands, the GFC provides the evidence they need to show that their sourcing strategies are from farmers committed to looking after the environment.”