During the next fifteen to twenty years, the global population will continue to rise, placing unprecedented pressures on the supply and demand for the global food system. Competition for land, water and energy will intensify, compounded by the impacts of climate change which will become increasingly apparent with greater volatility in weather resulting in erratic crop yields. Pressure to decarbonise agriculture to meet net zero targets is also likely to result in significant changes to farming practices, whilst farming faces an ever-increasing social challenge due to the lack of young people willing to engage in an industry that is seen as challenging with low rewards.
This combination of factors presents a huge challenge to the farming industry and to society at large. Farmers and growers must become more technically efficient, adopting new regenerative production methods whilst achieving ever higher quality standards and do this whilst managing ethical challenges relating to the welfare of people and animals.
We know that our M&S Select Farmers do a great job every day - not just in terms of high production standards, but also in providing wildlife habitats, looking after soil health, maintaining high animal welfare and ensuring that the land is managed for the benefit of future generations. To support this further, we have started a new five year 'Farming with Nature' collaborative programme to help our Select Farmers become more resilient to the biggest environmental challenges they face - spanning climate change, biodiversity, soil health and water usage.
Commitments and targets
We want to lead UK retail in terms of sourcing responsibly produced raw materials farmed to leading production standards – offering our customers good value, high quality products and services. That's why we're expanding our RSPCA Assured range to offer more RSPCA Assured products than any other retailer - including all fresh eggs, pork, farmed salmon and farmed trout, Oakham Gold chicken and milk.
Underpinning our commitment to our Select Farm partners and our M&S Select Farm Sourcing Standards
is our 'Farming with Nature' programme - designed to help our farmers become more resilient to the biggest environmental challenges. The five-year programme will provide farmers with industry-relevant, specialist support and tools to help them become more sustainable and deliver measurable improvements to their businesses, whilst encouraging the uptake of nature-friendly farming practices:
- As part of the programme, we have established 17 Indicator and Innovation Farms across the UK, spanning fresh produce, dairy, beef, lamb, pork, turkey, chicken and eggs. The farms will be supported by M&S-funded specialist industry partners from The Wildlife Trusts, the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG), the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and FERA. The farms will be trialling new ways of farming in harmony with nature and measuring environmental improvements and benefits over time - including testing of novel measurements like E-DNA and remote-sensing approaches - to provide farmers with new insight into the biodiversity on their farms. Learnings from these farms will be shared through knowledge transfer activity and farm events with other M&S Select Farmers and the wider industry.
- As part of Farming with Nature, for livestock we are now collecting environmental outcome measures alongside our welfare measures, to measure progress and showcase the great work already being undertaken by British farmers.
- M&S already asks all UK growers to be LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) Marque certified, but as part of the M&S Farming with Nature programme, we will now partner with LEAF to deliver a programme of modules for M&S growers. This will support M&S growers in enhancing environmental outcomes and will be complemented by a suite of support for growers from FWAG and The Wildlife Trusts.
At M&S, we have a dedicated team of agriculture specialists and agronomists responsible for implementing our agriculture policies. In addition to our core 'Farming with Nature' activity, they focus on the following areas to support our M&S Select Farm partners.