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 Thrive, our sustainable agriculture and farmer livelihoods 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, Thrive is focused on the farm and farming communities and aims to ensure that:
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 Thrive programme.
In 2019, over 250,000 farmers were assessed through our Thrive programme, covering more than 80% of our total tobacco leaf purchases. We use the results to define priority actions for our leaf operations focused on addressing our global priorities and the locally-relevant risks identified. In the assessments, our leaf operations and strategic third-party suppliers reported that 92% of their contracted tobacco farmers grow other crops, including fruit, vegetables, wheat, maize, cotton and soy. They also reported running 2,709 farmer training sessions on farm business management which, overall, had over 76,000 attendances. In addition, some 298 women’s empowerment and leadership training sessions were held, with over 24,000 attendances.
The results have provided important insights into the complexity of the issues, and we are now using them to inform our approach to selecting and developing new partnerships and community-based projects, aligned with the five Capitals, that will have a demonstrable positive impact for farmers and their communities. This will also enable a more tangible way of measuring our contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including those relating to poverty, hunger, decent work and economic growth, life on the land and partnerships.