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You are here: Home >news >Better farming for food: FAIRR Initiative study reveals lack of commitment to regenerative agricultu

Better farming for food: FAIRR Initiative study reveals lack of commitment to regenerative agricultu

2023-09-28 Food Ingredients First



This comes on the heels of the EU cracking down on greenwashing claims, including within the F&B industry. 

Regenerative agriculture is rooted in the promise of a more sustainable approach. It seeks to restore degraded soils, enhance biodiversity and combat the profound impacts of climate change on farming systems.

The study scrutinized the sustainability claims of 79 global agri-food companies. It found that while 63% of these firms publicize regenerative agriculture as an answer to the mounting climate and biodiversity crises, 64% have not institutionalized any formal company-wide quantitative goals to realize this potential.

Understanding regenerative agriculture
The regenerative agriculture discourse is a juxtaposition of promise and ambiguity. “From soybeans to fish food, the agri-food sector is a significant driver of biodiversity loss and greenhouse gas emissions as it turns commodities into the food on our plates,” says FAIRR chair and founder Jeremy Coller.

“It’s encouraging that two-thirds of the sector now report ‘regenerative agriculture’ as a way to mitigate this damage, but deeply concerning that only one-third of these companies have implemented formal targets to institutionalize the take-up of regenerative practices in their supply chain.”

Defining regenerative farming
Unlike traditional farming methods, regenerative agriculture is not bound by a single, universally accepted definition. The primary focus is not on establishing a singular definition but rather on defining region and farm-specific outcomes and metrics. However, there is a broad consensus on its core practices in the agricultural community, emphasizing that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

The stacks of coins on top of a person's hand. Three plants grow on top of the stacks.only 8% of the firms made tangible financial commitments for the adoption of regenerative agriculture practices.only 8% of these firms, among them industry giants like Nestlé, PepsiCo, JBS and Sodexo, have made tangible financial commitments aimed at facilitating the adoption of regenerative agriculture practices among farmers in their supply chains.

Jo Raven, the director of Thematic Research & Corporate Innovation at the FAIRR Initiative, states, “Promoting the widespread adoption of regenerative agricultural practices is instrumental in addressing the pressing climate and biodiversity crises.”

“However, the shift away from conventional methods to regenerative practices introduces considerable risks for farmers. This transformation often necessitates substantial upfront investments, including the acquisition of new machinery, access to agronomic expertise, and experimentation, which could potentially impact short-term farm productivity,” he underscores.

“It is noteworthy that out of the 50 companies assessed by FAIRR, a mere four have taken proactive measures to mitigate these transition risks by providing some form of financial support to farmers.”

“The successful implementation of regenerative agriculture critically hinges on adequate support and investment in farmers. Investors are increasingly looking for concrete actions that facilitate an equitable transition, ensuring that farmers are not unduly burdened by the process of change.”

Yesterday, Unilever talked to Food Ingredients First about the company’s environmental commitments with financial performance despite the industry-wide challenges.

Charting a sustainable course
Regulations are stepping in to mitigate such practices. The upcoming EU Green Claims Directive, set to be enforced in 2026, will necessitate food companies operating in the EU to validate claims, including those on regenerative agriculture.

The UK is also tightening its grip, with the Advertising Standards Authority insisting on verifiable and substantiated environmental claims.

Moreover, the recently finalized Taskforce on Nature-related Finance Disclosures (TNFD) framework underscores the need for companies to validate their management of nature-related risks and impacts. Climate Farmers & Savory Institute’s recent discussion paper also hints at a minimum reporting standard framework to bring clarity and a unified approach to discussing regeneration in supply chains.


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