Editor’s note: Following on from our time together at the MaiaGrazing Wilmot Field Day 2022, we invited RCS to share some of their views on growing natural capital. In their contribution, RCS highlights the viability and benefits of farming regeneratively from a business standpoint. The following article was written by Leanne Sommer, a Landscape Ecologist at RCS.
Telling the story of great farm stewardship
So many farmers and producers take great personal pride in the natural assets on their farms. They observe how, under their management, these natural values are improving, maturing and becoming more valuable – greater diversity of plants and animals, clearer water in creeks and dams, healthier soils with increasing levels of organic matter, carbon and soil animal life. Many of these natural assets provide important benefits to farmers’ production and operations, but also to the wider community. These are known as ecosystem services. Clean water improves animal production, but also provides downstream communities with good drinking water that requires less treatment before use. Trees and woodlands are carbon sinks and wildlife habitat, both of which benefit the wider community.
The wider community is expecting increasingly greater transparency of food and fibre production and greater accountability from their financiers and investments.
Markets are increasingly looking for, and demanding evidence of positive climate, nature and societal outcomes from their value chains and investments to demonstrate their commitments and contributions to meeting climate targets, reporting on Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) accountabilities, and demonstrating corporate social responsibility,.
These trends are rapidly escalating because of:
- greater awareness of the impact of food systems on climate, nature, and society.
- moves for accountability of production in nation state trade requirements (for example, the European Union’s carbon border adjustment mechanism.)
- corporate, value chain and nation state commitments: for example, commitments made at the 26th Conference of the Parties for climate change (COP26), or the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS ), or for Science Based Targets.
- increasing compliance requirements for the finance sector (disclosure).
- The shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future through the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The attraction of regenerative agriculture
Regenerative food and fibre production is becoming of increasing interest to markets because it is generally nature-positive, reduces climate risk, promotes farmer wellbeing and delivers healthy and nutritious food to consumers, . The regenerative nature of production provides corporates with measurable performance indicators to support their reporting and accounting against climate, nature and social targets and obligations.
Value chain suppliers with corporate commitments to climate, nature and social performance are experiencing challenges in establishing effective and efficient systems/processes to measure, verify and report on climate, nature and social outcomes within their value chains. This is particularly true of the red meat sector, owing to the complexity of the value chain, and the relative impacts of market share versus price premium on actors within the value chain.
Finance institutions are increasingly aware of the multiple attributes of regenerative agriculture that mitigate risks – including business and financial, climate, nature and social responsibility risks.
Investors are increasingly interested in the performance of their portfolios, and finance institutions are currently developing frameworks to demonstrate this performance (e.g. CBA, Rabobank, NAB). It is anticipated that Agri-banks will progressively favour agri-businesses that can demonstrate the application of regenerative principles and the resulting outcomes in their drive to minimise risk and optimise reputation and performance credentials.
There is a hive of activity currently in Australia and globally around the development of frameworks for climate, nature and social accounting, but many continue to require audits of inputs, plans and processes rather than looking at outcomes. Many are single topic, for example Science Based Targets for Climate.
Great farm outcomes often go hand-in-hand with indicators of farmer wellbeing and signs of a healthy business and successful production. The RCS Natural Capital assessment team grew out of a desire to support farmers and producers to be recognised for their positive outcomes across People, Business, Production and Land components of their operations. RCS is keen to ensure that the components can be seen together – in the sense, forming a Farm Portrait when brought together.
It’s important to note that the natural capital and other data belong to the farmer. It is up to the farmer to decide who to share the information with. When we collect information, it will be kept confidential except if a farmer requests its release or releases it themselves.
RCS is a holistic agribusiness education and professional advice company headquartered in Queensland, Australia. To find out more about RCS, email firstname.lastname@example.org
MaiaGrazing is proud to endorse the regenerative grazing principles taught by RCS. Combined with product mentoring by MaiaGrazing’s team of trained graziers, our software supports the adoption of these principles through product features such as our digital grazing chart, data analytics on feed budgets and automated forecasts to match stocking rate to carrying capacity. Learn how you can achieve your grazing success with us: