Author Archives: Kathryn Green

LEAF Marque delivering added value to members

The results of independent research into the added value of LEAF Marque certification were released last week.  The study, commissioned by LEAF and carried out by CCRI (The Countryside and Community Research Institute), reveals that LEAF Marque certification can offer significant financial, environmental and social benefits for farm businesses both in the UK and overseas.  Kathryn Green, LEAF Sustainability Manager, explains more.

The provision of robust, transparent and independent evaluation to support the claims we make about the benefits of LEAF Marque certification, are a vital part of our continual improvement.  This new study, carried out by The Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI), 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 independent study, carried out exclusively with LEAF Marque certified businesses builds 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 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, we are 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.

These are very encouraging results which clearly show that LEAF Marque certification is delivering tangible economic, environmental and social benefits to farm businesses. All the participants in the study found value in being LEAF Marque certified.  The attention to detail required in implementing LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management principles, which underpin the LEAF Marque Standard, is empowering farmers to make positive changes towards more sustainable farming.

The provision of robust, independent studies of this type allow us to evaluate the impact of LEAF Marque certification and ensure that it continues to deliver meaningful benefits to growers and consumers alike. The results of this research clearly indicate we are heading in the right direction.  We will build on the findings and look to extend the reach and impact of LEAF Marque certification across the globe. We are brilliantly placed to inspire and empower farmers on their journey to more sustainable farming and look forward to continuing to help them do it.

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 here together with the report summary, LEAF’s response and key highlights.  If you have questions or comments about these reports, we would like to hear them. Please email:


From My Field To Your Fork: marketing the supply chain sustainability story

LEAF Board member, Richard Whitlock provides an overview of last week’s LEAF Marque Summit which brought together the food industry, farmers, policy makers and scientists to explore whether the food chain is doing enough to market its own sustainability achievements and aspirations… 

The LEAF Marque Summit hosted by Marks and Spencers, featured the launch of  LEAF’s fifth Global Impacts Report, Delivering More Sustainable Food and Farming. Once again, the growth in impact and awareness of the LEAF brand was recognised by the food industry, global growers and consumers, with some of the highlighted statistics being 367, 395 hectares of crop worldwide on LEAF Marque Certified businesses in 36 countries, 34% of all UK fruit and vegetables are grown by LEAF Marque certified businesses and 261,000 visitors to farms for Open Farm Sunday 2016.

LEAF Marque certified businesses across the globe delivering more sustainable food and farming

In her opening remarks, Caroline Drummond, Chief Executive of LEAF, highlighted the increasing importance of public engagement, customer focus, knowledge implementation on farms, increased farm sustainability and accountability. Kathryn Green, LEAF Sustainability Manager, gave more details of the Global Impacts Report.

Jonathon Porritt explores sustainability in the food supply chain

The key note speaker for the day was the well-known environmental campaigner, Jonathon Porritt. Speaking largely off-the-cuff, Jonathan impressed the delegates with his insightful, experienced and passionate values on the future of food production and conservation of the planet, while accepting the need to feed an ever growing, more affluent world population.

It is always good to hear from a practical farming proponent. We were honoured to receive an engaging and real-world insight from Simon Day of Worth Farms Ltd, a LEAF Demonstration Farm, who combine large-scale, intensive food production, with care for the biodiversity of their environment, measuring and lowering their carbon footprint and recycling waste, while continuing to increase output and improve quality.

Presentations were received from Emma Keller of WWF-UK and Tallulah Chapman of the Forest Stewardship Council.  Both these organisations are active in increasing awareness and implementation of sustainable sourcing, with the importance of brand recognition and consumer differentiation being highlighted.  Some key takeaway points from these papers were the hidden cost of cheap supplies and the convenience of consumers not wishing to understand more.

LEAF Marque Summit speakers (left to right): Quentin Clark, LEAF; Simon Day, LEAF Demonstration Farmer; Emmanuelle Hopkinson, M&S; Richard Whitlock, LEAF Board member; Tallulah Chapman, Forest Stewardship Council; Emma Keller, WWF-UK; Caroline Drummond, LEAF and Kathryn Green, LEAF

Emmanuelle Hopkinson, representing our hosts, Marks and Spencer, enlightened us on the sustainability sourcing activity in their supply chain. Marks and Spencer have an ambition to be the world’s most sustainable major retailer and Emmanuelle shared with us some of the successes and challenges they have  encountered so far.  M&S now recognise LEAF Marque as an approved Plan A provider of fresh produce production systems.

Finally, Quentin Clark, Director Business Collaboration at LEAF, gave a brief update on commercial progress with expanding the LEAF Marque brand across continents, farms, food brands and retailers.

Delivering More Sustainable Food and Farming: LEAF’s Global Impacts Report 2017, is available here.  Please take a few minutes to complete our on-line evaluation questionnaire here.  Your feedback is extremely valuable to us and will help us improve future editions as well as build upon our monitoring and evaluation activities.

Speaker presentations, photographs and commentary from this year’s LEAF Marque Summit are available here 


LEAF Marque – driving forward more sustainable farming and stronger supply chains

ian-finlaysonAs the LEAF Marque Standard version 14.1 came into effect on 1st January 2017, Ian Finlayson, Chairman of the LEAF Marque Technical Advisory Committee shares his thoughts on the role of assurance systems in driving forward more sustainable farming and stronger supply chains…

Food labelling is vital to our trust in the products we buy and consume. Without robust auditing the trust in labels and our food system fails as shown by food fraud scares.  Our food systems are complex and can obscure the exact origins of our food. Understanding where our food comes from and how it has been produced underlines assurance schemes such as Red Tractor, RSCPA Assured, Organic and of course, LEAF Marque.  In essence, they provide the means to better understand our food.  To know that is has met a certain benchmark of safe and/or sustainable production. This is great for us as consumers but also for farmers as it provides recognition for their work in these areas. For LEAF Marque, it demonstrates farmers’ environmental commitments with the potential to increase farm profitability through improved management and expand market opportunities for certified product.

Why do we need assurance schemes?

Today’s consumer is more informed than previously and they want to learn more. Our digital era has played a huge part in this thirst for knowledge.  Furthermore, social media offers immediate communication between farmers, retailers and consumers and is fuelling demand for complete transparency in the authenticity of the products we consume.

john-saul-cauliflower-gnp_7341_16011511355300001Certification is key to creating more transparency.  It helps to prove the high quality of products in a credible way, making them stand out and offering public assurance that they  have been produced safely and to a certain standard of quality.  For farmers, certification enables them to show the integrity of their products and helps to secure the trust of their customers which can, in turn, push up sales.

How do we achieve transparency?

Public trust and confidence in assurance schemes is dependent on the authenticity of the schemes themselves. As standard setters and developers, our duty is to ensure our standards are robust and they deliver on the sustainability promises we make. We do this in a number of ways:

  • Good governance – our LEAF Marque Technical Advisory Committee overseas the ongoing development of the LEAF Marque Standard which is underpinned by LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management. It brings together experts from a diverse range of backgrounds including farmers, retailers, conservation groups, government and industry bodies. They ensure the LEAF Marque Standard continues to evolve to respond to user comments, industry developments, the rise in new technologies and consumer trends.
  • Collaborating – We are proud to be a Full Member of the ISEAL alliance which works to strengthen sustainability standards systems and encourages dialogue between all its members in order to innovate and drive the sustainability standards movement forward.  LEAF Marque has also been benchmarked to Gold Level against the SAI Platform Farmer Self Assessment with appropriate baseline systems.
  • Listening – The LEAF Marque Standard is underpinned by the ISEAL Codes of Good Practice and its credibility principles which set out the approach that is essential for standards. cp-infographic-roll-over-image_2 At the very core of these is consultation.  We regularly seek the views of our farmers and growers, members and wider stakeholders to ensure the ongoing development of the LEAF Marque Standard.

The LEAF Marque Standard – what’s new?

leafmarqueFollowing our most recent consultation process, the latest version of the LEAF Marque Standard (version 14.1) is effective from the 1st January 2017.  We have refreshed its design and layout and made a number of other changes including the addition of six new Control Points covering energy, recording habitats and Chain of Custody.  Mandatory control points are now referred to as ‘Essential’ control points rather than ‘Critical Failure Points’.   These changes and the new design and layout offers our farmers and growers increased clarity.   We have received positive feedback from our growers in support of the changes.

How will the LEAF Marque Standard have to evolve?

Farmers face huge challenges as they try to find sustainable solutions to feed the world’s growing population without depleting its natural resources. This, coupled with more volatile climate patterns, political priorities and ever-changing consumer demands, will call for innovative and joined-up solutions.  There is no question that the growth for certified, traceable, sustainable products will continue.  This provides a global opportunity for farmers.  LEAF have three key priorities over the next five years:

Improving our outreach to consumers: Whilst awareness of the LEAF Marque is growing, we still have a long way to go. We will harness the power of social media, increase the number of LEAF Marque certified farmers reaching out to the public, through for example, LEAF’s Open Farm Sunday in order to increase public understanding, recognition and demand for sustainably produced food.

Building closer links: We will strengthen our links across the food industry to work together to ensure the LEAF Marque Standard continues to evolve and drive forward improvements in sustainable farming.

ifm-wheel-words-largeIdentifying partnerships: We envisage the role of sustainable farming as one of the solutions to the world’s growing health and obesity problems will be a key area for us.  We are determined to ensure that LEAF Marque and the principles of Integrated Farm Management are at the heart of this debate.


Independently-verified assurance schemes have a critical role to play in the future.  They help to generate higher revenue for farmers, contribute to stronger and more stable supply chain across the entire food industry and can deliver meaningful economic, environmental and social impacts.  The key is to ensure they themselves have integrity.   There is a powerful and growing wave of momentum behind sustainable food.  We are firmly focused on strengthening LEAF Marque as the leading environmental assurance system recognising sustainably farmed products.

The LEAF Marque Standard version 14.1 is effective from the 1st January 2017 and can be viewed here.  It is available in French, Spanish and Italian here.

About the author:

Ian is Managing Director of the Practical Solutions International, an independent consultancy company specialising in sustainable, ethical and safe food production. Ian headed up the work at Sainsbury’s on pesticides for many years and was a member of the Pesticide Residue Committee (now PRiF) for 8 years. More recently has been technical director for a number of fresh produce and cut flower companies and Chair of the Fairtrade International Standards Committee.   Ian became Chairman of the LEAF Marque Technical Advisory Committee in January 2016.