There has never been a time when the corporate world needs to be more aligned with the landed sector.
Be it financial services’ requirement for the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), or multinationals’ global standards for impact reporting (GRI 13), land use plays a key role.
But their metrics, language and approach to delivering sustainable, regenerative and carbon solutions, on the face of it, pay little more than lip-service to the importance of agriculture and land use in solving their problems.
They are trying to green their businesses with the help of a sector they have no knowledge of. In the same way that few of us would understand TCFD.
See also: Ian Pigott – collaboration is key to raising productivity and innovation
From 2023, corporates must address “materiality” – the principle of understanding which environmental, social and governance issues to prioritise.
These issues can have a major impact on a company’s financial performance, value creation, reputation and legal position.
But they are reporting to an audience of compliance, stakeholders and investors who do not have the knowledge to ask the right questions.
There is huge opportunity, but many within farming are seeing it only as a threat to British agriculture.
There are already examples of arrangements between developers, farmers and landowners for biodiversity net gain (BNG) – where developers’ planning conditions must follow the mitigation hierarchy, which aims to avoid harm, mitigate harm or, finally, compensate for any biodiversity losses on-site, off-site or both.
It feels like the Wild West, with an inordinate number of new “experts” offering farmers help to broker BNG deals.
The corporate bandwagon has started to roll, but someone else is holding the whip. Corporates will not change their behaviour if we only make their problem go away.
We must address the huge divide between both wealth and misunderstanding.
Largely, corporates, local or institutional multinationals don’t recognise the role of agriculture beyond a solution for their corporate reporting, financial gains, and as a crude sump of environmental conscience.
They cannot be held solely to blame. We are forever crowing about holding the key to the country’s sustainability goals while moaning about the threats to food production.
Even the Rock Review refers to the threat to the tenanted sector. Why not see it as an opportunity to strengthen those partnerships, deliver greater value and enhance the environment?
Farming systems, be they regenerative or other, carbon capture and biodiversity management plans are incredibly complex.
Not even GRI, which creates global standards to help businesses understand their impact on the planet, grasps how much of this farming can deliver. And we underplay our expertise.
I don’t believe there is a deliberate desire by the corporate world to deceive or ride roughshod over the farmed sector (there will always be sharks).
But without helping the corporate world understand the complexity of farming’s offering and sharing the depth of our expertise in helping deliver solutions, neither our assets nor our knowledge will be appropriately valued.