Big businesses buying productive farmland to promote their ‘green’ credentials may impact rural communities and UK food security, argues Andrew Livingston.
Roman Abramovich at Chelsea football club, Saudi Arabia buying Newcastle FC and a World Cup hosted in Qatar have all continued to fill the back pages of newspapers in the UK.
Not so reputable people and nations for years have used sporting teams and tournaments to change their public reputation – this is called sportswashing. In farming and business, something similar occurs, and it
is becoming ever more prevalent since COP26 and global plans to be net-zero in 2050 – this is known as
greenwashing. Previously, the main types of greenwashing were seen in companies’ marketing and advertising. For example, some oil companies in the past have been challenged for advertising heavily
on low-carbon products, while most of their annual spending is on oil and gas. Greenwashing is more commonly now being seen in big businesses investing in land to offset their carbon spend.
Does it matter?
People may say it is fine as it’s a global issue, but are companies doing the right thing if they just throw money at the situation and if we don’t try to reduce our carbon usage?
Greenwashing is being seen as having a bigger effect on farmers in both Wales and Scotland. In Wales,
paid afforestation schemes were set up to encourage farmers to plant trees on their land.
But large investment firms have been purchasing Welsh farms and land and planting the trees in order to
sell off the carbon offset. Although once again it seems great that the environment is being taken care of,
but for local communities it’s hard to see their farming heritage ripped up and the land they worked for
generations changed forever.
As an example, some airlines are known to have bought farms in Wales as they look to offset carbon for their global flights. Land purchasing for carbon offsetting is having a larger effect on farming in Scotland. Last year two-thirds of land sales in Scotland were done privately, meaning that they never went on the ‘open market’ – with one-third of those being sold to overseas buyers. Farms sold ‘off the market’ means that members of the local community are unable to get into farming or expand their current business.
On the face of it, greenwashing doesn’t quite have the newsworthy nature of sports washing. Most people see any tree planted as a good news story. But it seems that even capturing carbon comes at a cost as businesses look to exploit environmental schemes, and local communities to be seen doing the right thing.
As with knowing where your food comes from, we must ask ourselves when a business advertises its
green credentials “Do I know the real story behind this?”
by Andrew Livingston
Sponsored by Trethowans – Law as it should be