In 2021, we built on our decades of experience in agriculture to develop a new carbon-smart farming programme to help accelerate progress towards our targets for a carbon neutral value chain by 2050. This takes a strategic approach focused on both reducing emissions from tobacco farming and, crucially, leveraging the positive effect agriculture could have in removing carbon from the atmosphere.
The latter can be achieved by planting trees, as well as through methods like cover crops and conservation tillage that may keep the soil covered and undisturbed to reduce the possibility that carbon can escape. As well as storing carbon, these methods may also have wider benefits, including increasing water-retention capacity in the field, improving drainage, and making the soil richer and more fertile for growing crops. This leads to increased yields and better-quality crops for farmers helping to boost their profits.
While many of our contracted farmers already use these best practice methods, the challenge has been to find effective ways to measure impact and quantify the amount of carbon they remove, compared to how much they emit.
So, in 2021, we commissioned a specialist consultancy in Brazil to estimate removals resulting from best practice carbon-smart farming methods against international methodologies, such as the IPCC and GHG Protocol.
We are now working in partnership with Control Union to validate this methodological approach and to monitor, report and verify the results. This will enable us to develop and implement a system that can be easily applied by small farmers. The system will form the basis of our carbon smart farming programme, empowering our contracted farmers to incorporate carbon-smart farming into their business model.
It will also provide us with verified data to measure progress against our 2050 climate ambitions and to validate the impact of different carbon-smart methods to inform strategies for deploying those found to be most effective. In 2021, 35 of our contracted farmers in Brazil signed-up as the first pilot group for the programme. We will expand the pilot to farmers in Bangladesh, Mexico and Pakistan in 2022. The learnings from the pilots will help be used for further developing and scaling up of the programme as part of our wider climate strategy.
ESG Report 2020