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The Co-op Group Backs British Agriculture and the Environment

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The Co-op Group Backs British Agriculture and the Environment

The Co-op Group Backs British Agriculture and the Environment
June 30
09:46 2016

The Co-op has underlined its strong commitment to British farmers with the launch of a progressive scheme to monitor and manage environmental impact and efficiency amongst its dedicated farming groups. The Co-op Enviro-Map programme will, over the next three years, carry out carbon footprint assessments and biodiversity surveys across six main produce sectors. Data will then be processed to generate individual farm reports that will allow farmers to benchmark performance of their business and make decisions to improve efficiency and reduce environmental impact.

Co-op Enviro-Map will be the first fully Carbon Trust accredited self entry programme covering carbon and environmental footprinting. It will sit within the Co-op’s existing Agricultural Pillars initiative, which already defines standards and incentivises performance across its Farming Group members.

“Co-op Enviro-Map will cover farms supplying dairy, beef, lamb, chicken, pork and eggs and will add a positive, significant new dimension to our existing farm support and liaison,” explains Co-op Senior Agricultural Manager Ciara Gorst. “It’s an initiative that will really help our dedicated suppliers improve the efficiency and profitability of their businesses. More than that though, it gives assurance to our customers that we understand how important environmental impact is, alongside British provenance and quality, whilst showing how we work closely with suppliers to achieve high standards across all these elements.”

The Co-op Enviro-Map programme will be carried out in collaboration with agri-environment specialists Alltech E-CO2 using data collection and analysis models adapted for online entry. Carbon footprinting models developed by Alltech E-CO2 are certified by the Carbon Trust and conform to the internationally recognised PAS 2050 methodology.

Darran Messem, Managing Director, Certification at the Carbon Trust, says: “We know from experience that when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions from farming there is a very significant gap between the best performers and the worst performers. It is therefore great to see retailers like the Co-op engaging with the issue of farm-level emissions. The launch of the Co-op Enviro-Map project can help to recognise and incentivise better performance on emissions, which can be very positive for farmers because efficiencies often result in improved profitability. We are pleased to be contributing expert input and independent certification for not only the data management system, but also the final results and carbon footprints of the farms over the next three years.”

Alltech E-CO2 Business General Manager Ben Braou explains the broader significance of a farm’s carbon footprint, saying: “A carbon footprint is the holistic indicator of performance and is directly correlated with efficiency and profitability. It is derived from a comprehensive assessment of farm performance, with all inputs, outputs and resource use taken into account. It quantifies emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide (the three main greenhouse gases) and is expressed as grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per unit of production, up to the farm gate.

“In addition to carbon footprinting, the Co-op Enviro-Map will also monitor the broader environmental impact through a bespoke bio-diversity survey. Aspects such as habitat management, land use changes, nutrient leaching and soil erosion will be covered.”

Leading sustainable farming organisation, LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming), is supportive of the Co-op initiative. Quentin Clark from LEAF says: “One of the main aims of LEAF is to help farmers produce food sustainably to the highest standards of environmental care. Managing and monitoring the environmental impact of farming practices underpins the LEAF Marque standard and the Co-op Enviro-Map programme is entirely supportive of our approach.  It provides a great example of the positive influence that can be disseminated up to producer level by those involved throughout the wider food chain. We look forward to further developing our relationship with the Co-op, who are already a principal sponsor of Open Farm Sunday, and this initiative is a great start on this journey.”

Co-op supplier farms participating in the Co-op Enviro-Map programme will receive an efficiency and sustainability report shortly after their assessment. This will review key performance indicators for the business, summarise carbon performance and provide a breakdown of emissions sources.

The assessment process is carried out through self-entry into a bespoke web-portal and should only take around one hour to complete. Training is being provided through workshops and meetings, and there will be on-going support available to assist farmers.

The scheme will involve around 400 farm assessments each year and is expected to benefit Co-op farmer suppliers individually and also allow broader benchmarking across sectors. Information generated will be used to provide more general advice and support to dedicated suppliers and also be used to educate and inform Co-op customers.

The Co-operative Group is one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives, with interests across food, funerals, insurance, electrical and legal services. Owned by millions of UK consumers, The Co-operative Group operates a total of 3,750 outlets, with more than 70,000 employees and an annual turnover of over £9 billion.

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