Agriculture and farming practices

ABF is a diversified group, with a wide range of food and ingredients businesses as well as our retail brand, Primark. Our businesses depend upon agricultural systems for most of the raw materials we use in our products, and we recognise the need to support more sustainable farm management practices.

We have a strong association with the UK agricultural sector, where our businesses collectively form the largest end-to-end food producer. Globally, we are also a significant purchaser of cotton, sugar beet, sugar cane, tea and cereals.

Global agricultural systems are under increasing pressure to provide for a growing population while responding to the challenges and effects of climate change. Extreme weather events, increasing water stress, biodiversity loss and soil degradation are all adding to pressures within the system.

We expect our businesses to go further than legal compliance by continuously considering and implementing other appropriate activities, voluntary commitments and internationally recognised management systems to reduce their environmental and social impacts and risks. This encompasses the responsible stewardship of our environment in line with the following requirements:

Our businesses support a wide range of social and environmental interventions at farm level. These span management models including certified organic production, standards to promote wildlife biodiversity, engagement with smallholder growers in developing markets, and the adoption of integrated farm management systems built on the principles of sustainable intensification.

For example, Primark launched its Sustainable Cotton Programme in 2013, with farmers in the programme trained on techniques to help improve efficiency, increase soil quality and reduce their use of agrichemicals. It also aims to address a wide range of social development issues related in income improvement.

While it is not possible for our businesses to intervene in every farm supply chain, collectively we support many farm-focused intervention programmes. The objective of these is to shape management practices to promote systemic commercial, social and environmental resilience for the long term. Science, technology and data are essential to achieving this aim.

Many of the farm management standards our businesses support align with the core principles of Integrated Farm Management (IFM). They require the incorporation of a range of management practices across a number of designated criteria in the context of improving overall supply chain efficiency and driving more sustainable farm productivity. Requirements typically include, for example, the safe handling of agrochemicals and improving soil structure, as well as the provision of land management practices to sustain habitats for wildlife biodiversity. IFM can make a significant impact on a range of measures.

The UN Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) Standard, for example, requires Alternate Wet and Dry farm management techniques to reduce water use in the rice sector by around 30% and, by association, GHG emissions by up to 50%. Westmill has committed to source 20% of all the rice it purchases from farms in Pakistan and Thailand to follow this Standard.

Our businesses also supply a range of products and services to the agricultural sector that facilitate efficient farm management and regenerative approaches such as cover-cropping to improve soil structure and water retention.

We support the adoption of regenerative farm management techniques alongside the responsible use of precision science and technology to maximise efficiency, reduce greenhouse emissions and limit biodiversity losses while maintaining commercially productive agricultural outputs. For example, Illovo – Africa’s largest sugar producer – manages cane lands and farming activities in South Africa according to the SUSFARMS® environmental management system. Allied Mills and British Sugar require the farms they purchase from to meet the Combinable Crops Standard specified under the Red Tractor mark. In Jordans Dorset Ryvita, the Jordan’s Farm Partnership programme is run across 15,000ha in conjunction with both LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) and The Wildlife Trusts.

We believe in the importance of high animal health and welfare standards. This is captured in our Group Animal Health and Welfare Policy, which applies to all our businesses. For more information please see our Responsibility Report 2023.

Responsibility in action: our supply chains

Our material topics

We recognise the need to understand the ESG issues most relevant to our operations, our industries and our stakeholders.


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