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Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Welsh Government’s Glastir scheme and the challenges of implementing sustainable development goals

The Welsh Government urgently needs to make sense of sustainable development goals and clearly communicate these with the food and farming industry in Wales or the Glastir scheme will fail.

We’re concerned to learn about the farming industry’s reaction to the Welsh Government’s new Glastir scheme as reported in today's Western Mail.

Unfortunately this response to the Welsh Government’s attempts to implement sustainable development goals within the new Glastir scheme is nothing new. This is frustrating for Ecostudio and many of our clients because we have worked tirelessly to provide evidence that sustainable business is simply profitable business.

The food and farming industry in Wales is facing significant challenges from global competition for cheap food, rising energy and input costs and increasing pressure on natural resources.

The Welsh Government recognises that sustainable practices are fundamental to our nation’s economic survival. Many farm businesses feel they are already contributing this goal.

So the issue has nothing to do with farm businesses not wanting to be sustainable producers or that they are somehow environmental terrorists – in fact many farmers understand that they must work in harmony with the land or they will quickly exhaust the very means they rely upon to keep them in a profitable business.

On the contrary the issue revolves around a lack of clear communication for what sustainable development actually means.

Put simply sustainable development is economic development that does not exploit people or the environment.

It’s about building profitable businesses that pollute less and bring more benefit to the communities they serve. It’s not about environmentalists and social scientists dictating how we should behave (although having been involved in the industry for many years and we can see why some people may perceive it this way).

The key challenge for the Welsh Government in implementing the Glastir scheme lies in understanding how to implement sustainable practices.

Here at Ecostudio we’ve been championing the cause for sustainable food and farming business for many years.

We have worked with many farm businesses to build strategies and action plans to do just that – Birchgrove Eggs, Calon Wen Organic, Dunbia, Llwynhelyg Farm Shop and Ty Tanglwyst Dairy to name just a few.

Essentially sustainable business requires vision, innovation and determination (skills that most small businesses need to possess in abundance to survive in a global marketplace) combined with the know-how and experience to do things better (this is where we are able to help).

However if these efforts go unrecognised by policymakers and their delivery bodies. The food and farming business and the sustainable development agenda in Wales will not move forward.

Clearly this is something we feel passionately about particularly because we are positioned to do something positive to help move this agenda forward.

We welcome comments on this.