AHDB - UK Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board

05/15/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 05/15/2024 07:45

Roadmap for UK agri-food environmental data released

The UK Government's Food and Data Transparency Partnership (FDTP) has recently released its first policy paper, setting out a roadmap of priorities for the next 12 months. The paper covers agri-food environmental data, from scope 3 reporting and eco-labelling, to getting more data from farmers - and making that data easier to share while also storing it securely.

Scope 3 and emissions reporting

The Department for Business and Trade (DBT) are currently reviewing company sustainability reporting standards. This will include decisions on whether large UK businesses have to report their scope 3 emissions - indirect greenhouse gas emissions associated with a product or business (e.g. the emissions from producing food come under scope 3 for a supermarket). There are standards and protocols for reporting these emissions, with the main ones currently being reviewed and updated. For the food and drink industry, a close watch point will be how on-farm carbon reductions and removals are treated in the accounting.

One current issue with environmental accounting and reporting is a lack of consistency. The Long-term Improvements to Environmental Impact Data for Food (LED4Food) project will run over 3 years from March 2024 with a range of targets, including standardising agri-food emissions reporting. Ways to standardise eco-labelling for consumers are also being explored.

Improving data

There is a need to improve both the quantity and quality of emissions data in the agri-food system. FDTP want to focus efforts on generating more data where greater accuracy counts the most - at farm level. However, there is no guarantee at present that farmers are paid for their time and efforts in collecting the data, nor for the value that this information represents to the supply chain. Additionally, lack of standardisation means farmers may have to provide data in multiple formats for different buyers.

FDTP are looking into ways to make collecting and sharing data easier. This includes seeing how data already collected from farms can be re-used in carbon auditing, and looking into how different systems could share data. These would reduce the number of times farmers have to enter the same data into different systems. Additionally, Defra, FDTP and the LED4Food project are working to improve the data found in secondary sources like food product footprint databases.

The FDTP understands that effective data governance is key to establishing the trust that farms and other food businesses will need to have in others to agree to sharing their data - especially where it is commercially sensitive, or there has been an associated cost to collect it.

Increasing capacity

Shifting towards data-led environmental management requires more people who are skilled with data to do the work involved. FDTP has heard from many businesses that they are struggling to meet this requirement. The government has also identified a "data skills gap". FDTP will be engaging with industry more broadly to determine how to build up numbers of people and their data skills across the industry.

FDTP priorities for the next 12 months (by Spring 2025)

1.0 - Food supply chain reporting at company and product level

  • 1 - Standardised scope 3 company level reporting
  • 2 - Approach to company level nature reporting
  • 3 - Recommendations for a standardised product level accounting method

2.0 - Farm Data

  • 1 - Support for carbon tool providers to harmonise their underlying methodologies
  • 2 - Support for farmers to complete an audit and act on it
  • 3 - Repurposing existing data to complete an audit
  • 4 - Integrating primary data from farms into secondary datasets

3.0 - Environmental impact data for food, drink and agri products

  • 1 - Data for key imported commodities
  • 2 - Accessible Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) data

4.0 - Data infrastructure

  • 1 - Data infrastructure for data sharing
  • 2 - Data governance
  • 3 - Data quality

5.0 - Supporting and enabling workstreams

  • 1 - Skills plan
  • 2 - Joining up and horizon scanning
  • 3 - Communications and engagement

AHDB is part of the eco working group of the FDTP and is working to ensure policies like these are fair for our levy payers. See how we advise the FDTP here.