Sustainability assurance programme called Farmland Management Standard officially launches following successful pilot

US-based Leading Harvest has launched its sustainability assurance programme Australia which is designed to harmonize sustainability reporting across crops and regions.

Pistachio orchard

Pistachio orchard

Image: Manulife Investment Management Timberland and Agriculture

Its Farmland Management Standard, standardises sustainability verification and reporting across the industry, providing farmers and agriculture customers with a universal certification.

The Standard provides both farmers, and their major customers including supermarket chains and other retailers, with a way to verify sustainability outcomes that impact communities and the environment, from climate and biodiversity to safe and respectful working environments.

Kenny Fahey, Leading Harvest’s president and chief executive, said the company’s 2022 pilot was successful and participants from six Australian states representing around 540,000ha of agricultural land and 21 crop types will now implement the standard.

These include PSP investee companies Altora Ag, Australian Food and Fibre, Southern Premium Vineyards and Stahmann Webster as well as Manulife Investment Management, goFARM Australia, Warakirri Asset Management and RRG Capital Management.

“The overarching mission for our programme in Australia, consistent with our strategy in the U.S. and globally, is to harmonize the sustainability reporting landscape to create more efficiency for producers, more transparency for consumers and the supply chain, and to improve environmental and social outcomes,” said Fahey.

“It’s clear that there is a real need for a product like the Farmland Management Standard and the kind of engagement Leading Harvest facilitates within the supply chain. We are excited to be launching at scale in Australia with 540,000ha enrolled and look forward to continuing this momentum around the world.

“We are greatly appreciative of the companies that helped pilot our programme in Australia and are now enrolling with us at launch. The process over the past year of piloting confirmed the need for a standard that both demonstrates the great sustainability work currently being undertaken and also drives a process for continuous improvement in one, comprehensive certification that satisfies the demands of the market.”

This version of the Farmland Management Standard is unique to Australia and reflects the agronomic, regulatory, and operating realities of the region following the model pioneered in the US.

It addresses 13 sustainability principles including sustainable agriculture; soil health and conservation; protection of water resources; protection of crops; energy use, air quality and climate change; waste and material management; conservation of biodiversity; protection of special sites; local communities; employees and farm labour; legal and regulatory compliance; management review and continual improvement; and tenant- operated operations.

Mutual Trust facilitated the Australian pilot and chief executive and managing partner Phil Harkness said developing a universal certification for sustainability was an important step for the industry.

“We are proud to have facilitated the pilot on behalf of Leading Harvest and to have served as its Australian advisor over the past year. We understand that the Leading Harvest initiative provides a much-needed third-party sustainability assurance solution that the Australian agricultural market demands. We celebrate Leading Harvest’s launch and look forward to seeing its success.”