Almost two-fifths (39%) of fruit and vegetables grown in the UK is now produced by LEAF Marque certified businesses - up from 25% just four years ago - according to the assurance scheme's latest figures.

This week, LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) has released its seventh Global Impacts Report – ‘Delivering More Sustainable Food and Farming’.

It shows worldwide, a total of 973 farming businesses, representing 375,679ha of crops in 27 countries are now part of the environmental assurance system.

The report highlights the impressive progress delivered by certified businesses across the globe in delivering more sustainable farming.

It also outlines LEAF’s plans for the future, including targets to strengthen its offer in the livestock sector, broaden its global reach and continue to invest in enhancing management tools, training and services for LEAF Marque growers.

Tom Green, LEAF Marque chairman said: “LEAF Marque is now in its 16th year and has grown to become one of the world’s leading environmental assurance systems, providing a robust, independent, third-party mechanism to recognise and reward sustainable farming practice in the market place.

"Our work is vital in addressing global challenges on climate change.

As we face possible exit from the European Union, with much attention focussed on the nature of trading relationships outside the EU, and the UK Government policy prioritising the environment and the delivery of ‘public goods’, there is no doubt that LEAF Marque certified businesses will be well positioned.”

Caroline Drummond, LEAF chief executive, added: “This high level of engagement with the LEAF Marque assurance system is driving real and lasting change in the resilience, productivity and health of farmland across the globe.

"The level of growth would not have been possible without the commitment and leadership of our LEAF Marque growers.

"Together with them and our many valued partners across the food supply chain, we are determined to remain a leading catalyst for improved farm management, contributing to the sustainability of our farmed land and supporting food security and livelihoods in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as well as national objectives set out in the Government’s 25-Year Environment Strategy.”

LEAF Marque in the UK

The report shows that in the UK, LEAF Marque’s prominence in the fresh produce sector has grown for the seventh year.

Many UK fresh produce is now almost exclusively grown by LEAF Marque certified businesses. For example, leeks 95%, lettuce 89%, cherries, watercress 83% and beetroot 78%.

Sustainable farming

The report highlights how LEAF Marque certified businesses are delivering improvements across all nine areas of Integrated Farm Management, which underpins the LEAF Marque Standard.

Soil health is a key area with four in 10 farms (41%) recording soil organic matter to build resilience and productivity.

Other precious resources including water and energy are also being carefully managed:

  • 67% LEAF Marque certified businesses manage reservoirs for water quality, safety and/or wildlife;
  • 48% have one or more types of renewable energy generation;
  • 52% carry out waste management best practice; and
  • 70% optimise the health and welfare of their livestock to maximise performance.

Drummond added: “There is no magic bullet to optimising sustainable food production. It requires collective efforts of farmers, governments, retailers, NGOs, the research community and individuals.

We must all work together to achieve shared outcomes – more productive soils, cleaner water and air, greater biodiversity, efficient energy use and improved connections with people, farming and the natural world.

"LEAF Marque certification is part of the solution as a powerful tool to deliver improvements and create change for the better.”