Our Group purchases approximately 440,000 tonnes of tobacco leaf a year and over 100,000 independent tobacco farmers are directly contracted to us.
Tobacco growing is one of the most significant parts of our supply chain. It’s an area of some of our greatest social, environmental and economic impacts – but we do not own tobacco farms or directly employ farmers. However, with direct relationships with tens of thousands of farmers around the world, we do have strong influence to encourage sustainable agriculture practices.
Through tailored approaches and agronomy support, we can help our contracted farmers to build stronger, more sustainable operations, while also protecting the long-term security of our tobacco leaf supply.
Agronomy support through leaf extension services
At British American Tobacco we value the unique relationship we have with our farmers. At the heart of that relationship is our Extension Service, through which we provide agronomy support to the growers who are directly contracted to supply our leaf.
Extension Service field technicians are local experts who work with farmers to grow the right crop in the right way. They work in the field with farmers, agreeing contracts, supplying seed and offering advice on propagation, the safe use of agrochemicals and integrated pest management.
They provide farmers with access to farming methods and technologies that might otherwise be beyond their reach, for example, fuel efficient curing barns.
But our support goes beyond just growing leaf. Extension workers also advise on techniques that help protect the environment, everything from reducing water demand through efficient irrigation to managing biodiversity and promoting the use of sustainable wood as a curing fuel. And our experts provide advice on how to grow other crops.
We also offer support to local farming communities, becoming involved in local infrastructure projects and working with other organisations to help stop child labour in agriculture.
And by keeping track of the cost of growing locally, not globally, we can help ensure farmers receive fair pay and have a profitable business.
It’s a relationship that benefits both the farmers and us.
In 2012, our companies provided this agronomy support in 20 countries, covering some 165,000 hectares under cultivation.
Setting the standards
Our sustainability agenda describes how we strive for the highest standards of corporate responsibility within our own operations. We also expect these standards to be reflected by our suppliers throughout our supply chains, including the supply of leaf.
Read more about our Philosophy for Supplier Partnerships in Supply chain management.
We use our Social Responsibility in Tobacco Production programme to address the social and environmental issues associated with growing and processing tobacco. The programme also includes Good Agricultural Practices, a set of principles that can help address these issues and produce a healthy crop. It reaches all the suppliers we buy leaf from.
See Social Responsibility in Tobacco Production for more information about the programme.