Creating long-term value and mutual benefit
The farmers we work with are crucial to the success of our business and if they do well, we do well – so we make sure this happens by supporting them.
While the industry-wide Sustainable Tobacco Programme (STP) helps ensure high environmental, social and agronomy standards in our tobacco leaf supply chain on a day-to-day basis, many of the challenges impacting upon the livelihoods of our farmers and sustainability of agriculture require a long-term, holistic approach.
For example, in many parts of the world farming isn’t seen as an aspirational career choice for young people, so they move away from rural communities to find jobs in the cities. This is leading to ageing farmer populations and is a threat to the long-term sustainability of agriculture.
We need to ensure we have access to high-quality tobacco leaf now and in the future, so it’s critical that we work to address this and other supply chain risks and challenges. These challenges aren’t something we can address alone – but we do have a role to play.
So, in 2016, we launched our Sustainable Agriculture and Farmer Livelihoods (SAFL) programme to all our BAT-owned and strategic third-party suppliers worldwide.
Unlike STP, which is a standards-based compliance programme for first-tier tobacco leaf suppliers, SAFL is focused on the farm and farming communities and aims to ensure:
The programme is based on an internationally recognised framework covering five 'Capitals' covering financial, natural, human, physical and social factors, which are key to sustainable and thriving agricultural communities.
We first piloted it between 2014 and 2015, and used the results to further refine the strategy in consultation with external consultants with expertise in livelihoods programmes. This has included the development of a focused set of key indicators under each of the Capitals.
We know that many agricultural challenges and their root causes will take years to address and cannot be tackled alone. So implementing long-term community-based projects and multi-stakeholder partnerships are central to the SAFL programme.
Over the next year, we will work to identify appropriate partners, including NGOs, governments, the tobacco industry and other companies with agricultural supply chains, and then support the design and implementation of new projects where they are most needed. This will include integrating the learnings from our previous and existing collaborative projects, such as the BAT Biodiversity Partnership, and sharing best practices to address common challenges in different countries.
As well as meeting our own objectives around the long-term sustainability of tobacco growing and our responsibility to provide viable livelihoods for our farmers, we believe SAFL will help support wider global objectives, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals relating to poverty, life on the land, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, and decent work and economic growth.