Biodiversity and ecosystems
Protecting the environment, protecting ourselves
We have a long-standing commitment to protecting biodiversity, including the prevention of deforestation and fragmentation of habitats.
Our business relies on natural resources such as timber, clean water and healthy soils.
Conventional agricultural practices can be resource intensive and may cause deforestation, pollution and environmental degradation. This is why we continually work with our contracted farmers to develop, advance and implement sustainable agriculture practices. These preserve natural capital, enhance rural livelihoods and help increase farmers’ resilience to climate change.
Our priority targets are therefore:
- Zero gross deforestation of primary native forests 1 2 3 4
- Zero conversion of natural ecosystems in our Tobacco Supply Chain by 2025
- Net Zero deforestation of managed forests in our supply chain by 2025
- Net positive impact on forests in our tobacco leaf supply chain by 2025
- 100% of wood used by our contracted farmers for tobacco curing to be from sustainable sources
It is a priority that there is no deforestation of primary native forests and so we aim for our supply chain to be 100% free of this.
Beyond the protection of natural forests, we are also committed to net zero deforestation of managed forests across our tobacco leaf and paper- and pulp-based product supply chains by 2025.
This means that for every tree that is chopped down, we will aim for another to be planted by ourselves or others in our supply chain.
In our tobacco leaf supply chain, of which BAT’s own operations make up a sizable portion, we take this further by aiming to have a net positive impact on forests by 2025.
To achieve this goal, we provide our directly contracted farmers with tree saplings as sources of sustainable fuel for tobacco curing, as well as training in forest and biodiversity management. Our third-party suppliers are expected to follow similar practices with their contracted farmers.
Our Group Biodiversity Statement sets out the principles we follow to manage our biodiversity footprint across our operations while collaborating with external partners to support us on that journey.
The statement is based on a mitigation hierarchy which describes the steps to avoid, minimise, restore or offset biodiversity loss, where we operate, particularly in areas of close proximity to critical biodiversity areas.
Our approach extends across our supply chain as set out above – from tobacco sourcing to the packaging used for our products.
In our tobacco supply chain, we are advancing sustainable agriculture through our world-leading leaf science and a strong team of expert field technicians and agronomy application specialists that support our 80,000+ directly contracted farmers and farming communities worldwide.
Our global leaf agronomy centre, based in Brazil, develops new farming techniques and technologies that help tackle various elements of biodiversity impact, such as integrated pest management and drip irrigation techniques, often in partnership with leading universities.
Our expert field technicians support our contracted farmers worldwide by:
- Promoting the sustainable use of wood fuels for tobacco curing which has been the long term focus of our deforestation and biodiversity programmes as the key risk area. Since 2016, our monitoring of our contracted farmers’ wood use for curing has shown at least 99.9% was from sustainable sources;
- Rolling out the tools and technologies developed by our global leaf agronomy centre;
- Helping farmers deploy more efficient curing technologies that use up to 30% less fuel, to tackle deforestation; and
- Providing ongoing training and capacity building. In 2022, it was reported via our Thrive assessments that 82% of tobacco hectares in our Tobacco Supply Chain1 had best practice soil and water management plans in place.
In addition to our sustainable agriculture efforts, we support afforestation, biodiversity and environmental conservation programmes around the world as part of our wider community-based initiatives. For example, over the last 40 years, our long-standing afforestation programmes in Bangladesh, Brazil, Pakistan and Vietnam have helped distribute over 400 million tree saplings.
Deforestation can also be caused by unsustainable sourcing of paper and board for use in our products and packaging. To address this, we only source from reputable global suppliers, many of which are certified to Forest Stewardship Council or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification standards.
We’ve long recognised the importance of collective action to protect and promote biodiversity.
From 2000 to 2015, we worked with three NGOs in the British American Tobacco Biodiversity Partnership: Fauna & Flora International, the Tropical Biology Association and Earthwatch Institute.
The Partnership focused on some of the challenging issues surrounding the conservation and management of biodiversity within agricultural landscapes and the ecosystems on which we depend.
We’re very proud of this 15-year collaboration and what we collectively achieved. Although the Partnership has concluded, our commitment to biodiversity remains a priority and forms an important part of a new, broader programme that focuses on how we support farmers and their livelihoods.
In 2021, we became a signatory to Business for Nature’s Call to Action , a global coalition uniting influential organisations and forward-thinking businesses to amplify calls for collective action to reverse nature loss in this decade.
Biodiversity risk and opportunity assessments
In 2022 we commissioned The Biodiversity Consultancy to conduct a Biodiversity Risk Assessment, mapping our contracted farmers against five global Biodiversity indicators and categorising them based on Low, Medium & High risk. In 2023 we extended this Geospatial risk assessment to cover BAT Group’s owned Manufacturing facilities.
Additionally, the Biodiversity Risk and Opportunity Assessment tool was developed by the Biodiversity Partnership to help our companies identify, assess and address risks arising from their impacts and dependencies on biodiversity and ecosystems in and around their leaf-growing operations. Our tobacco leaf growing operations have completed assessments and initiatives are in place to address the issues identified.
The Biodiversity Risk and Opportunity Assessment tool comprises a ‘how-to’ handbook guide that explains in detail the assessment process and how to follow it. An accompanying spreadsheet helps users to plan, capture information and to complete the assessment process.
Download the Biodiversity Risk and Opportunity Assessment Handbook and spreadsheet
If you have any questions about the Biodiversity Partnership please contact our Sustainability team using the secure form
2 Our tobacco leaf supply chain covers BAT contracted farmers and farmers contracted to our strategic third-party suppliers, representing more than 80% of our total leaf purchases in 2021, as reported via our THRIVE assessments.
3 For pulp and paper products, this will focus on net zero deforestation for only primary packaging (i.e. a material that is in direct contact with the final product) & fine papers achieved by ensuring these materials we use are certified sustainably sourced in consideration of deforestation.
4 Certified sustainably sourced means that the material is sourced with specific certification related to chain of custody (e.g. FSC/PEFC). BAT will undertake spot verification of these certifications where appropriate
5 All Paper & Pulp based materials = Board & Paper for Primary Packing, Board & Paper for Secondary Packaging, Fine Papers for Cigarette/THP, and Cellulose Acetate Tow for Filters & Marketing Materials.
6 For pulp and paper this will be net zero deforestation by 2025 for 100% paper and pulp based materials achieved by ensuring all materials we use are certified sustainably sourced in consideration of deforestation
You might also be interested in
Solutions to plastic pollution – the BAT perspective
On World Environment Day, BAT’s Sustainability Capability Manager Nisaar Ebrahim highlights our approach to the circular economy and stopping plastic pollution.Read more >