In a world where sustainability and environmental responsibility are becoming must-meet requirements for discerning consumers, it is in all businesses interests to make sure their organisation ticks as many boxes as possible – and for farm shops it’s particularly important.

2020 may have brought an entirely new challenge to the farm shop sector, but the demand for businesses to step up and demonstrate their green credentials has not gone away, and those farm shops who have taken that expectation on board and set out to deliver on it could reap the benefits when it comes to reputation, increased footfall and an improved bottom line in the future.

While farm shops have been seen to champion green policies and sustainability in the UK, an increasing emphasis on these has produced in owners a real appetite to take responsibility for improving their environmental footprint via partnerships with likeminded and/or local suppliers and using and offering products throughout the shop that comply with their green credentials and also link to local food in local farm shops.

Andrew Burton of sector support specialists Malcolm Scott Consultants said: “There are many ways for a farm shop to implement responsible practices throughout its business, from sourcing products such as sustainable bags to use for loose fruit and veg, through to energy saving concepts, for example bio-mass boilers or solar panels which help heat the farm shop and supply electricity to other parts of the business or community.

“It’s also become very common for farm shops to focus on ‘supplier delivery miles’ and emphasise their links with local suppliers, highlighting to the customer the positive effect this has on the business’ carbon footprint and the community.”

“One of the most significant areas for change has been a farm shop’s catering facilities. From offering paper straws and cups, through to substituting plastic bottled products for glass ones, catering departments have taken the opportunity to share the fact that they care about the environment in recent years.  Behind the scenes, oil should be collected for recycling via specialist contractors, while glass and packaging is recycled, recyclable or biodegradable,” he explained.

Andrew added: “The MSC team has also worked with businesses on developing their business proposition to benefit turnover and marketing linked to environmental strategies.  MSC also have gained planning permissions linked to business development plans to help clients reduce energy consumption with the introduction of solar panels, wind turbines, sensor activated lights and low energy lighting, all helping profit.

“I am sure farmers and farm shops will continue to be real leaders in identifying environmental improvements, something which I am confident will only evolve further in the future and something the customers will see as a point of difference to other competitors encouraging them to visit.”