Tesco’s fruit and veg farmers achieve LEAF eco-certification

The LEAF Marque builds towards Tesco’s commitment to halve the environmental impact of the average shopping basket

In a week where UK growers have warned that fruit and vegetable shortages may last for months, Tesco has confirmed that all of its UK fruit and vegetable growers in the UK have been certified to the LEAF Marque, which is based on delivering more sustainable and climate-resilient farming practices.

LEAF stands for ‘Linking Environment and Farming’. The scheme is one of the world’s largest certification programmes for farmers, recognising the uptake of more sustainable approaches to food production.

Farms are only able to achieve certification, the scheme states, if they take a whole-business approach that delivers multiple benefits across the environmental agenda. The long-term aim is to help farmers achieve nature-positive or regenerative farming, whereby net-positive outcomes are achieved for biodiversity and soil health.

As of 2021, around 45% of produce grown in the UK was LEAF-certified, the scheme estimates. LEAF is aiming to cover 85% of UK-grown fruit and vegetables by the start of 2026.

Of the 524 UK farms already certified under LEAF, 83% manage reservoirs for water quality, 67% self-generate renewable energy, 42% track and improve soil organic matter and 39% are using the scheme’s carbon footprint tool.

Tesco has this week announced that it will start certifying the rest of its 8,000+ grower base and will have all of them certified by 2025.

“We’re excited to have completed the roll-out of LEAF Marque certification across all our UK grown fruit and veg supply base. Reaching this significant milestone was only possible by working in partnership with our suppliers and growers, and it’s really encouraging to see environmental improvements already having an impact on farms across the UK,” Tesco’s chief product officer Ashwin Prasad said.

“As we continue our roll out of the LEAF Marque across our international supply chain, we’re calling on the whole of the food industry to join us in implementing consistent, improved environmental standards to ensure the food we eat is produced sustainably around the world.”

The LEAF Marque builds towards Tesco’s commitment to halve the environmental impact of the average shopping basket, an initiative it has been running in partnership with WWF.

LEAF growth

At the start of 2022, Lidl GB announced plans to help all British suppliers of fresh produce to achieve LEAF Marque certification within 24 months. The scheme also received new support from PepsiCo. The multinational has pledged that all 300+ of its UK-based Quaker Oats farmers will achieve certification by the end of 2023. Waitrose certified all UK-grown produce to the standard more than ten years ago.

LEAF’s acting chief executive Philip Wynn said: “The climate and ecosystem emergency is one of the biggest challenges of our time. Retailers, consumers, food companies and governments all over the world are looking for more sustainable and climate-positive methods of production. In this context, we are delighted that Tesco are accelerating their ambitious and far-reaching net-zero targets through LEAF Marque certification. It provides a powerful catalyst for change, empowering growers to adopt more regenerative approaches by building healthier and more productive soils, delivering better air and water quality and enhancing biodiversity.

“The continued roll out of LEAF Marque across Tesco’s entire global fresh produce supply chain, represents a transformational moment. LEAF Marque-certified growers are some of the most innovative and forward-looking farmers in the world. We greatly look forward to working with Tesco’s fresh produce growers and continue to scale up our resources to support them.”

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