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10 December, 2020

Transparency is key to social license

A farmer’s freedom to operate is enabled by an industry’s social licence, defined as the privilege of operating with minimal formalised restrictions based on maintaining community trust.

By Bruce McConnel TSBE Food Leaders Australia General Manager

The past few months have seen the continuing conversation around how the agricultural sector needs to focus on their social license. A farmer’s freedom to operate is enabled by an industry’s social licence, defined as the privilege of operating with minimal formalised restrictions based on maintaining community trust.

The key to this community trust is transparency and this means that the industry needs to consider the best way to engage with audiences to ensure that trust is maintained going forward. We already know that our producers have an unspoken requirement of needing social acceptance as their demand for the products only occurs if consumers want to continue to buy it.

Australian farmers are being affected by this need for social license in agriculture. Market demand requires that consumers have confidence in what producers do but with sustainability being a big discussion point across all industries, buyers are demanding more secure solutions. There are pockets within the sector where there are issues that must be addressed to ensure that consumers constantly support the industry through buying products.

More so it is important that internationally, Australia maintains its clean, green image. Partnerships between the Federal and State Government, in addition to the private university sectors, are working towards this and are investing in new sustainable practices. We have the knowledge within our universities and private enterprises to achieve sustainable agriculture that is environmentally friendly and economically sustainable.

We must find ways to adopt these practices. Adoption of innovation and new technologies has been the way that this industry has grown in the past. However, we have to start looking at sustainability gains to ensure our businesses remain viable as well as productivity gains. In no way are we asking businesses to lose money in order to meet their environmental and social credentials.

The proof of successful sustainable practices is evident, with enough case studies in Australia to show that farmers can run a very viable beef, grain, cotton – all agricultural businesses whilst meeting guidelines set by external stakeholders. By adopting these new technologies, by understanding what they are doing and by not fearing this debate, farmers can lead the way in sustainability.

If Australia’s agriculture sector gets on board with the environmental needs, we will improve our market access to international markets through clean, green imagery. By addressing the community’s questions around environmental issues, it will foster change through investment. This transparency will reassure consumer confidence and in turn, will show economic returns.

Australian consumers and producers don’t need to be in conflict as their goals very similar. We must show a way that continues to educate whilst listening to concerns through addressing them constructively not critically.

Our consumers are asking us to look more at sustainability, which is a shared long-term goal of producers also – a vibrant, sustainable industry that produces the best food in the world. We look forward to being a part of a transparent and innovative future.

 


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