Sustainable Farming

Working with our farmers, growers and other suppliers, we work to ensure the best environmental standards are applied across our supply chain.  This is supported by our inspections and farm assurance schemes, giving customers confidence in the food they buy. 

Working Together

Our investment in farmers not only ensures we have a stable and continuing supply base, but also promotes innovation, research and development to increase productivity.   The Waitrose Farming Partnership is made up of three groups of suppliers – The Agronomy Group, The Livestock Steering Group and The Fish Forum.  Their objective is to future proof farming businesses.  Each group is tasked with implementing programmes that contribute to a more sustainable future for UK farms and elsewhere.

Aerial shot of field being harvested

Safeguarding the Future of Food and Farming

The Waitrose Farm Risk Assessment was developed in 2011, following the Future of Food and Farming Report.  This recognised the threat of increasing pressures on the global food system.  Through the Agronomy Group, the assessment is a collaboration of a diverse range of suppliers, growers of fresh produce and a range of research providers.  Our aim was to understand the fundamental challenges our growers face and how to tackle key issues of food safety, Sustainability and quality.   

The aim is that each grower has a comprehensive environmental management plan in place drawing on research covering five pillars - soil, water, biodiversity, inputs and waste.  As at January 2016, 92% of participants in the assessment had comprehensive environmental management plans in place.  We are pleased in particular to have made considerable progress in the areas of soil preservation and biodiversity plans and water optimisation. Going forward we will place greater emphasis on waste and energy management to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.  For further detail please see our dedicated Waitrose Farm Assessment site.

Our Livestock Steering Group this year developed and began trialling a similar model for meat, dairy and eggs – the Responsible Efficient Production Index.  2016 will see us bringing more farms into the trial and developing our methodology further.

Waitrose milk

Fair Trade Terms

Our suppliers’ ability to meet our high expectations relies on our principles of honesty, fairness, courtesy and promptness.  These principles along with our short supply chain model provide us with the foundations to lead the way in championing sustainable farming practices. 

For many farmers, falling prices paid for their products, are leading to an uncertain future for their businesses.  In a tough trading environment, Waitrose has continued to support a vibrant food and farming sector through our strong and transparent relationships with dedicated farmers.  The past year has seen heightened scrutiny over the price dairy farmers receive for their milk.  Waitrose has continued to source its milk from a closed producer group of 73 farmers, and pays one of the highest prices per pint in the market.  This price has been set taking into account the cost of production and investing in the future of their farms.

As a Partnership we are a founding signatory of the Prompt Payment Code.  In 2016 Waitrose will focus its efforts on how to simplify how we do business with small suppliers.  In addition, Waitrose is a 'Designated Retailer' of the Grocery Supplier Code of Practice.  The Grocery Code Adjudicator’s annual supplier survey 2015 ranked Waitrose second out of ten supermarkets for assessment of compliance to the GSCOP terms. 

Championing british banner on shop floor

Buying British

According to figures estimated by the National Farmers’ Union, UK food self-sufficiency is now just 62%, down from 75% in 1991 .  We want to create a stronger brand for British food and drink.  To this end, Waitrose has a policy of sourcing British food when products are in season and at the peak of freshness and flavour.

While the availability of fresh produce is highly weather dependent, we work closely with regional farmers and growers to achieve the best in seasonal fruit and vegetables.  In 2015/16 approximately 70% (by weight) of fresh vegetables were sourced from within the UK. Waitrose fresh chicken, beef, pork (including sausages) bacon, duck and goose are from the UK all year round. All our turkeys come from the UK or Ireland and we sell the best of British seasonal lamb and venison when in season. 

By supporting British food and suppliers, we are creating jobs and boosting the economy and importantly our farmers, who are stewards of the countryside.