In 2017, the CCRI carried out a study of the LEAF Marque certification, “The effect and impact of LEAF Marque certification in the delivery of more sustainable farming: a study to understand the added value to farmers”.
The results of the study, which was commissioned by LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming), were released on 14th June 2017.
The research revealed that LEAF Marque certification can offer significant financial, environmental and social benefits for farm businesses both in the UK and overseas.
The LEAF Marque is an environmental assurance system recognising more sustainably farmed products. It is based on the sustainable farming principles of Integrated Farm Management (IFM), which covers areas such as soil and water management, pollution control, crop health, animal welfare, community engagement, energy efficiency and landscape and nature conservation. LEAF Marque businesses are independently assessed and certified against the principles of IFM.
The study, which was undertaken by Matt Reed, Janet Dwyer and Nick Lewis, showed that for many businesses the value of participating in the LEAF Marque assurance system reached beyond their initial motivations for joining, which were predominantly financial, and helped them develop their businesses in ways they had not previously considered.
This study was carried out exclusively with LEAF Marque certified businesses; it built on previous work the CCRI carried out in 2010 which looked more broadly at the benefits to farmers of LEAF membership.
Key findings of the report, which was released at this year’s Cereals Event, include:
· Improved market opportunities
97% of those surveyed reported that LEAF Marque certification had helped secure access to new market opportunities, with 23% reporting receiving a price premium for their LEAF Marque certified product. LEAF Marque certification was also reported to help farms qualify for other income streams, such as agri-environmental schemes.
· Improved financials
36% of participants reported significant extra income as a result of being LEAF Marque certified. Focusing on LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management principles, which underpin the LEAF Marque Standard, was also shown to make operations more efficient in areas such as energy, soil, biodiversity, water and
Crop health. In energy efficiency, for example, more than half of participants reported making savings of between £10,000 and £17,000 per year.
· Improved biodiversity
66% of farmers who took part in the study reported increased biodiversity with many noting marked improvements in observed farmland birds, insects and mammals.
· Improved community engagement
71% reported improved relationships with the public from being LEAF Marque certified, through hosting farm visits, maintaining footpaths and having a strong social media presence. An improved engagement with the wider agricultural sector was also reported by 47% of participants. Participants were unanimous in their support for the way LEAF promotes public engagement with many seeing this as of strategic importance for their business.
The study also supports LEAF’s ongoing commitment to adhere to ISEAL’s (International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling) Codes of Good Practice. As a Full Member of the ISEAL Alliance, LEAF is committed to systematically monitoring, researching and reporting on the outcomes of the LEAF Marque assurance system. LEAF’s monitoring and evaluation programme helps inform stakeholders and drive change and improvement.
The report was presented to George Eustace, Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), at Cereals 2017, which was held at Boothby Graffoe in Lincolnshire on 14th and 15th June.
The full report ‘The effect and impact of LEAF Marque in the delivery of more sustainable farming: a study to understand the added value to farmers’ can be downloaded, together with the report summary, LEAF’s response and key highlights.