NatWest Group and the Sustainable Food Trust (SFT) are to join forces for the next two years to support the development of a common framework of farm sustainability metrics and an accompanying assessment tool that will enable farmers to measure their environmental and social impact and give them actionable insight to help them to reduce their emissions.

The first of its kind, the Global Farm Metric, is an internationally standardised framework for measuring the sustainability of farming and food production, and is set to play a crucial role in helping farmers measure and improve the sustainability of their own farming practices.

NatWest Group, as the first bank to invest in developing this solution with the SFT for the agriculture sector, will work to ensure that the Global Farm Metric is actionable for farmers in the UK and beyond. Bringing expert insight from the financial sector, Natwest will help develop the Global Farm Metric as a single platform through which farmers can meet multiple sustainability data requests, for example, for audits or requests from retailers, banks or governments.

James Close, Head of Climate Change at NatWest Group, said: “As one of the leading banks supporting agriculture businesses, we recognise the challenges that farmers face in reducing their carbon footprints and keeping up with the pace of change in the sector. Data and actionable insight will be key in helping the sector on its climate journey, which is why we’re delighted to be working with the Sustainable Food Trust on this important initiative. We want to create an industry leading tool, and work collaboratively with others, to make this solution a reality for farmers.”

Patrick Holden, CEO & Founder of the Sustainable Food Trust, commented: “We’re delighted to be working with NatWest Group to bring the Global Farm Metric to life. The framework is a breakthrough for the agriculture sector and has the potential to radically change the way sustainability reporting works on food and farming worldwide.

As we approach COP26 later this year, the need for the global food production system to become more sustainable is more pressing than ever. The Metric is all about creating a practicable way for farms of all sizes to track their performance on sustainability, and NatWest Group’s support will help us to ensure that as many farmers as possible in the UK and beyond have access to this important resource.”

Today’s announcement comes after NatWest Group successfully piloted early versions of the tool, developed so far by the SFT and researchers from the Royal Agricultural University, with 13 farming customers to test its viability during the first quarter of this year.

The framework assesses against a number of categories including:

  • Productivity
  • Soil
  • Water
  • Energy and resource use
  • Air & Climate
  • Nutrient Management
  • Livestock Management
  • Plant and Crop Health
  • Biodiversity
  • Social Capital
  • Human Capital

The Global Farm Metric then takes this information and provides a detailed summary to farmers, highlighting strengths and areas for improvement. Further developments could include building interfaces with other commonly used tools, such as those that measure productivity and calculate carbon.

As part of aligning the bank’s portfolio and lending with the ambition of the Paris Agreement, NatWest Group published preliminary financed emissions estimates for the agriculture sector in February this year. The development of this Global Farm Metric will enable the bank to better understand the impact of its agriculture portfolio, as well as providing customers in the sector with individual support on their climate journey.

NatWest Group is the principal banking sponsor of COP26, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties that the UK is hosting later this year in Glasgow.

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