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:
- all our contracted farmers have a viable livelihood
- farming is seen as a preferred profession, particularly for rural youth
- within farming, tobacco is seen as a valuable crop to grow.
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.
Working together to implement long-term solutions
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.
Our Thrive assessments cover BAT-contracted farmers and farmers contracted by our strategic third-party suppliers, representing more than 80% of our total tobacco leaf purchases in 2020.
We use the results from the annual assessments to define priority actions for our leaf operations and to focus our efforts on our global priorities and the locally relevant issues identified.
This can take multiple forms, including sending field technicians to offer expertise and assistance or implementing local community development programmes.
For example, our Thrive assessment in Pakistan identified a greater risk of child labour during the school holidays. Working with NGO The Vision 21 Foundation, we piloted summer schools across four growing areas. In 2019, over 135 children were able to attend. In 2020, COVID-19 led to the postponement of the programme, but in 2021 we hope to run eight schools and enrol over 240 children.