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Press release

Nature-positive farmers and business leaders call for companies to tackle nature crisis

A farmer walking through a wildflower meadow with a farm building in the background
Neil Heseltine on his farm in Malham, North Yorkshire | © Ben Cherry / Silverback Films

Leading nature-positive farmers have joined industry leaders and charities WWF, the RSPB and the National Trust to urge businesses to tackle the nature and climate crisis.

Leading nature-positive farmers have joined industry leaders and charities WWF, the RSPB and the National Trust to urge businesses to tackle the nature and climate crisis.

Nature loss and climate change are resulting in unprecedented ecological breakdown in the UK and around the world, creating risks to businesses including supply chain disruption and asset losses and causing fundamental shifts in how businesses operate.

Neil Heseltine and Leigh Weston, upland farmers from North Yorkshire, and arable farmers Patrick and David Barker, from Suffolk, star alongside Henry Dimbleby MBE, the CEOs of Tesco, NatWest and Triodos Bank, and the Chair of the John Lewis Partnership, in a new film – Hungry for Change – that shines a light on how the UK’s food system has become a driver of biodiversity loss and showcases the range of solutions available, from rebalancing land use to reducing food waste.

In recent decades, agriculture has been pushed to intensify and industrialise by market pressures and government subsidies. Today, our food system has become the biggest cause of biodiversity loss in the UK, as well as a growing proportion of our climate emissions.

Hungry for Change calls on the business community to seize the opportunities that restoring the natural world will bring, to recognise that companies cannot function without nature and to line up in support of producers making nature-friendly food.

It is one of four business films commissioned by WWF, the RSPB and the National Trust as part of their Save Our Wild Isles campaign and is produced by Silverback Films, the makers of the BBC’s Wild Isles TV series. The films were screened to over 200 business leaders at a launch event in London.

Two farmers already seeing the benefits of nature-friendly choices are Neil Heseltine and Leigh Weston, tenants of the National Trust at Hill Top Farm in Malham, who reduced their sheep stocking levels 15 years ago and brought in Belted Galloway cattle to reverse the damage caused by years of intensive grazing. With changes to grazing patterns and later cutting dates for meadows, Hill Top’s grasslands are now thriving, meaning more habitat for birds including the rare curlew. As Neil explains in the film, this means of farming has been profitable too.

He says: “There’s undoubtedly the feeling that it’s either nature or it’s food production, and never the twain shall meet, and I think it’s the complete opposite of that.

“I think it’s really important that food retailers look for different methods of production that are better for the environment, better for nature.”
"At the end of the Second World War, we were being asked to be farmer heroes with regards to food security, maybe now we’re being asked to be farmer heroes again with regards to climate change and to nature’s recovery… and I firmly believe that we can do that."

Patrick and David Barker who farm the 1,300-acre Lodge Farm in Suffolk also feature in the film. The father and son consider soil health a priority and have reduced ploughing and the use of pesticides, which in turn helps support wildlife, store carbon and prevent flooding and drought. Hedgerows have been nurtured back to life, as have ponds, and five pairs of barn owls are now breeding on the farm.

Patrick Barker says: “You can create a farming system that balances wildlife with crop production. It’s good for our bank balance, it’s good for our carbon footprint and it’s good for the natural environment and our farmland wildlife. I always say: farm like an environmentalist and manage the natural environment like a farmer – we look after our bees and pollinating and beneficial insects.”

Others calling for action include business leader and investor Deborah Meaden and Dame Sharon White, Chair of the John Lewis Partnership, who says in the film: "The only sustainable way forward for us as a business, indeed I would argue for any business, is to be Nature Positive because without being Nature Positive, ultimately, you can’t be profit positive.”

Henry Dimbleby MBE says: “The way we produce food is imperilling our ability to produce enough food. If we don’t change our food system, our unsustainable food system, we won’t be able to feed ourselves in the future.”

Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, who also appears in the film, says: We’re now at five minutes to midnight... now is the time to take an integrated approach, whereby nature recovery migrates to the centre of economic thinking.”

The UK public are also demanding change. The recent People’s Plan for Nature - created by people from across the UK with 30,000 contributions – demonstrates that the public wants businesses to take action for nature and will support businesses who do so.

Hilary McGrady, Director-General of the National Trust, Beccy Speight, CEO of the RSPB and Tanya Steele, CEO of WWF said: “UK nature is in crisis - the UK is among the most nature-depleted countries in the world. The farmers in this film show that working with nature makes sound business sense as well as being good for farmland wildlife and their carbon footprint.

“It’s not too late to create a more sustainable and resilient way of feeding the nation but farmers need support from Government, the food industry and consumers. We must all play our part in creating a food industry that helps bring our natural world back to life.”

The charities stress that it is not the role of businesses alone. Governments need to step up and support businesses and farmers to transition to nature-positive net-zero businesses, including investing in ambitious policies to reward nature-positive farming to ensure it becomes the norm. In particular, farmers should be rewarded for creating wildlife-rich habitats, nurturing soils and reducing pesticide use.
Companies are encouraged to organise screenings of the film, which is available on the Save Our Wild Isles website at