6 November 2023

Seven ways Aussie agribusinesses can use sustainability principles to grow exports

Nicola Hinder from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has some timely tips for agribusinesses looking to build sustainability across their operations.

As food security and climate change concerns rise around the world, sustainable agricultural growth is becoming more critical.

Aussie agricultural businesses need to focus on reducing the impact of production and supply chain logistics on the environment. This will not only help Australia meet its sustainable development goals but will keep free and open trade with global partners flowing.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to sustainability

Nicola Hinder is acting Deputy Secretary of the Agricultural Trade Group, part of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF). She says each region and country have a different take on sustainability.

‘France’s approach to agricultural sustainability, for example, is very different to the Australian approach. This is because of its climate, variations and industry. It certainly doesn’t mean that one country takes environmental considerations more seriously than the other,’ she says.

‘But what it does mean is that it’s increasingly important for countries to take an outcomes-focused approach to global sustainability. Because a one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn’t work for everyone and potentially leads to harm, not good.’

The departments that keep sustainable trade a-flowing

Hinder points to three government departments that work together for Aussie export businesses on the world stage.

‘The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) unlocks doors. They’re the ones that identify the “big T trade” possibilities like free trade agreements,’ she says.

DAFF then opens those doors by handling technical market negotiations. ‘We provide the assurance to a trading partner that the goods we’re exporting are clean, green, food-safe, consumer-ready, and produced in ways that meet certain market requirements,’ says Hinder.

And once those doors have been opened, ‘Austrade is the fabulous group that shows people where their agricultural goods can be exported to,’ she says.

Each of these departments is deeply committed to sustainable productivity growth.

‘We’re focused on environmental stewardship, productivity, resilience and social wellbeing in an Australian context,’ says Hinder. ‘We also need to be able to benchmark these against differing international contexts.’

Using sustainability to grow your exports

Agricultural sustainability is a shared goal among all of Australia’s agricultural industries.

‘We have a strong agricultural sustainability story to tell – one that is suited to the Australian environment but can also be demonstrated to suit the outcomes sought by trading partners,’ says Hinder. ‘But there is still a lot to do to make sure our sustainability story is told – and told right.’

Hinder suggests seven ways Aussie agricultural businesses and producers can use sustainability principles to grow their exports.

  1. Shout out your sustainability stories: Hinder believes Australian businesses are already doing many things right when it comes to sustainable practice. ‘What I’d really like to see is businesses getting those stories out there to drive export growth. They can also use their knowledge to bring other stakeholders along with them.’
  2. Verify your supply chain: Consumers are becoming more interested in a product’s methods of production and impact on the environment. ‘Your supply chain needs to be verifiable. This gives consumers the confidence that what they’re buying fits their expectations around social licence and sustainability.’
  3. Choose sustainable packaging: Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. ‘Consumers want to know more than just how the good itself has been produced. They also want to know about how goods are packaged – i.e., is the packaging recyclable or compostable?’.
  4. Keep an eye on global trends and developments: It’s no longer enough for Australia to rely on its global reputation for being a fantastic food producer. ‘Many countries are now coming up with the same “clean and green” arguments we’ve been using for a long time. We need to look to the global stage to identify new points of differentiation. Can we do it the same way? Can we do it differently? How do we differentiate ourselves from the pack?’
  5. Understand the technical requirements of trade: In a changing landscape, it’s important for business to stay up to date with the latest trade information. ‘DAFF offers multiple points of engagement to help Australian producers understand the technical requirements around exporting.’
  6. Consider a funded traceability strategy: There’s been significant government investment to provide funding for businesses to undertake new approaches to traceability. ‘Traceability is not just about being able to track something to its point of production in case there’s a food safety or animal/plant health issue requiring management. It could also be about full product traceability – looking at issues like provenance, production method and more. This allows Australian exporters to demonstrate relevant product credentials to meet importing country requirements.’
  7. Have your say: There are many ways for producers and exporters to engage with DAFF. This includes through the department’s “Have Your Say” statements and community consultation programs. ‘We’re always keen to hear from exporters about how we can help them. Their feedback can help us develop new policies that resonate with a changing world trade environment.’
Agricultural White Paper, July 2015, Tamworth, NSW, people, cattle
NAQS shoot, basil, Basil farming, Basil farmer, Farmer, Horticulture, far north Queensland, Atherton Tablelands, far north Queensland, Farm watering infrastructure, Tractor, Farm equipment, man, men
grass and cloudy sky

Images courtesy of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

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