18 May 2020
5th European Agroforestry Conference

Nuoro, Sardinia. Call for abstracts

21 September 2020
Organic World Congress 2020

20th Organic World Congress in France, September 2020

6 December 2019
Organic research and innovation priorities

TP Organics launched its new Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda

28 November 2019
Whites Oats win award!

Research and innovation through Organic Arable pays off

21 March 2019
In adversity, what are farmers doing to be more resilient?

Opportunities, barriers and constraints in organic techniques helping to improve the sustainability of conventional farming

O1: Practical steps to supply chain sustainability

Chair: Andrew Jedwell (Food Consultant)

This session combines the results of work that looked at sustainability issues in the supply chain with the direct experiences of two Welsh companies that contributed to it (organised by OCW).

Session summary

Sue Fowler first gave an overview of the work that OCW and Weir Total Supply Chain Sustainability have been carrying out as part of the Better Organic Business Links (BOBL) project. This has looked at how 25 Welsh organic businesses perform in sustainability terms through ranking (0-5) against a total of 23 indicators, within a ‘sustainability toolkit’. Generic end-to-end supply chain maps were used to highlight areas that need attention, and sustainability action plans can be produced as part of the toolkit. Sue highlighted that measuring and monitoring is key when it comes to making improvements, and that there are relatively large gains to be made from just taking simple measures (e.g. checking tyre pressures). The toolkit that was developed will soon be publicly available.

Roger Kerr from Calon Wen then offered an example of their experiences of the Weir assessment. Roger highlighted that a lot of the scoring was related to monitoring, which is not something Calon Wen could score so highly on. Transport was also an area where opportunities for improvement were identified, as some of their milk was going over 100 miles away to be processed and packaged, and ended up being sold in the town where it was produced! Roger pointed out the lack of processing in Wales as a contributory factor for this. Roger also pointed out that the audit identified areas of conflict, for example Weir suggested selling UHT milk to improve shelf-life, but this conflicts with their organic principles and the high-quality of their product. The final speaker, Iain Cox, gave a presentation on EcoStudio’s sustainability assessment services. Iain explained that EcoStudio have developed a method to measure farms’ performance against environmental, economic and social criteria, and provide strategic advice. Iain referred to two case studies; a beef and sheep farm that had teamed up with Sainsburys and recruited about 46 volunteers to supply produce to lower income areas and Birchgrove eggs in Aberystwyth, who have encountered issues with regard to distribution; a common issue for organic producers in Wales.

Discussion points:

  • Toolkits can allow farmers to identify issues for themselves; they don’t need consultants for this
  • Our economic system is dysfunctional, need to think as organic producers what an alternative systems/supply chains can look like
  • The whole issue of Sustainability assessment is wracked with value judgements and personal views
  • Within the Weir assessments, there are some tensions and some win-wins between what is economically better and other aspects of improving sustainability

Action points:

Individual speaker presentations and abstracts

Sue Fowler (OCW): Aspiring to supply chain sustainability: Better Organic Business Links (PDF 775KB)
The BOBL project was asked by the organic food supply chain sector in Wales to look at sustaina-bility in the supply chain. Work was commis-sioned using an innovative approach to provide a visual assessment of sustainability indicators using radar diagrams. The organic sector, while doing some things well, is constrained by the wider system. The work is reported to stimulate discussion on if and how the organic sector can move forward.

Roger Kerr (Calon Wen): Aspirations to realities
Calon Wen participated in the BOBL project and Roger will discuss the elements that he feels could be addressed and those that couldn’t. He will set out his ambitions for Calon Wen and discuss his view on how organic businesses need to embrace all the aspects of sustainability and communicate their approach to customers.

Iain Cox (EcoStudio): Sustainable inspiration (PDF 403KB)
Sustainable development and sustainability are often used interchangeably to describe a broad number of issues to do with community, profit and environmental performance. For small businesses this can seem complicated and the commercial benefits that can be gained from making positive changes are can be lost. Drawing on Ecostudio’s experience and using practical examples this short talk aims to outline opportunities that exist for small companies that embrace more sustainable ways of doing business.