How Can Food Retailers Drive Environmental Best Management Practices at the Farm Level?


It’s clear that retailers struggle to develop upstream policies that impact a wide range of system conditions during production in sustainable agriculture, including:

  • ecosystem protection
  • renewable energy
  • water conservation
  • workers rights

Largely, consumer demand has dictated reductions in harmful practices (such as pesticide use in agriculture through their uptake of the Organic food movement). Retailers are left following trends in demand rather than creating it through policies that incentivize certain practices over others.

In fact, according to a recent study by University of Standford researchers, it seems as though true success comes from building long-term partnerships between farmers and buyers. As Rob Guillemin states in his op-ed on this research, “The farmers reported that they benefited from the valuable advice provided by farm auditors, who included trained agronomists, soil scientists, and environmental scientists. This technical assistance ranged from insights on soil management, water use, biodiversity, waste disposal, and pest management to carbon footprint assessment and environmental laws.”

It is evidenced in the research that a company-led approach that builds long-term relationships (as was done by Woolworths in South Africa) can, in fact, drive best management practices in agriculture, thereby tackling a wide range of system conditions.

Read the full journal article here!