Rural development framework

rural development

Rural development framework

What is the issue?

To support rural development effectively, we need to make sure our business needs are aligned with those of our farmers. We also need a consistent, measurable approach that’s adaptable enough to address locally relevant issues.

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Why is it important?

Our supply chain is large and highly complex, including around 760,000 smallholder farmers around the world. To support rural development in all the areas we source from and measure our progress effectively, we need a consistent but flexible framework.


  • Achieved
  • By 2015 – (globally) Continue to establish baseline assessments in the countries of key importance to our business that show pronounced social need to guide us in aligning our activities with the priorities of local communities.

Socio-economic development through better farming practices.


A more sustainable and resilient supply chain.

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What are we doing about it?

Nestlé’s global business launched our Rural Development Framework in 2012. Developed in partnership with the Danish Institute for Human Rights, Solidaridad, the Fair Labour Association and the Rainforest Alliance, the framework is designed to deliver a consistent yet flexible approach to rural development, while making sure that our activities on the ground are aligned with our business and social priorities.

The framework has three global aims: to help our farmers build successful businesses, to make sure workers are productive and respected, and to ensure rural areas are prosperous, attractive places to live, work and invest in.

Nestlé is currently rolling-out the framework across all of our markets, where it’s adapted to meet local needs. Here in the UK and Ireland, we have adapted the framework to work specifically with our First Milk dairy farmers at Girvan in Ayrshire, and at Dalston in Cumbria. These farmers provide milk for a range of major Nestlé brands including Kit-Kat, Aero and Nescafé Café Menu.

Based on the framework, we have developed our Milk Plan, through which we work with dairy farmers on four priority areas: farm economics, farmer knowledge and skills, natural resource stewardship, and animal welfare.

This work is a starting point. In the longer term, we aim to use the framework in our work with other UK suppliers, including wheat and sugar producers.

Through our partnership with Nestlé UK, our researchers were able to engage directly with companies across the dairy value chain. This meant we could evaluate practical interventions which could potentially help halt the degradation of water, soil and biodiversity and deliver benefits to dairy farmers and the public.
John Pharoah, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Women at the milk factory  

Business training

Through the Milk Plan, we are training all our dairy farmers in financial budgeting. To help develop a continuous improvement mind-set among our farmers, we are also raising awareness of the concept of lean farming, and how this can drive down costs.

We have also been working with a group of farmers to launch a transparent price mechanism that will reward farmers who take part in our Milk Plan by paying them a premium price. This mechanism comes into effect in 2016.

Preserving natural resources

To support our commitment to natural capital, part of our Milk Plan involves helping our farmers preserve natural habitats and encourage indigenous wildlife in the areas where they work. For example, thanks to our biodiversity programmes, eight of our First Milk farms currently have dedicated butterfly meadows, some of which are managed with the enthusiastic help of local schoolchildren.

We help our farmers preserve natural habitats in a range of other ways. At our West Cairngarroch farm on the coast in Wigtownshire, we have encouraged a shift in the farming cycle so that certain areas of land are kept free from cultivation and livestock during the summer months and then grazed with cattle in winter. This helps preserve the natural coastal habitat, at minimal cost to the farmer.

Over the next four years we will be ramping up our work in this area, with a series of natural capital assessments and action plans to measure and manage our farms’ impact on natural resources in more detail.

Cow on the field  

Developing knowledge and skills

We deliver workshops to help to develop our farmers’ knowledge and skills. These workshops cover a range of topics, from cow welfare and the use of antibiotics to energy efficiency and the advantages of feeding cows from forage rather than bought-in feed.

As part of our training, we bring farmers to our factories to help them understand our processes and our quality requirements. Together, these workshops have led to farmers working to improve the levels of fat and protein in their milk, which results in higher pay from Nestlé.

Man and cows  

Understanding the impact of dairy farming

The dairy industry has the potential to play a critical role in the stewardship and enhancement of natural habitats and resources in the UK. This is partly because companies along the dairy value chain are themselves highly dependent on the resources and services provided by nature, such as the land and water required for keeping cows.

To understand these dependencies better and develop a plan for the future, we have been working with the Cambridge University Institute for Sustainability Leadership on the Dairy Action Research Collaboratory (ARC). The aim of the initiative is to analyse in detail how the dairy industry impacts on soil, water and biodiversity and to recommend interventions that will be trialled on our farms to protect and enhance natural habitats and resources.

By engaging with our dairy farmers in Dalston and involving them in the discussion and review process, we have helped make sure that our dairy supply chain has played a major role in ARC.

Operational review at the factory  

Nurturing the next generation of dairy farmers

In 2016, we are launching the Next Generation Dairy Leaders Programme, a partnership with First Milk designed to develop future leaders in dairy farming by giving them the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.

The investment from Nestlé in supporting the long-term sustainability of UK dairy farming goes well beyond other businesses in many areas.

The launch of the Nestlé Next Generation Dairy Leaders Programme demonstrates that long-term commitment in providing outstanding development for our best young farmers of the future.

This initiative is even more important taking place as it does against a hugely challenging context for UK farmers. It is critical that our future farmers have the best possible training and development so they can step up and compete what will be an increasingly global and competitive future.

First Milk, a company which is wholly owned by British family farms, is delighted to support this very important Nestlé initiative.
Mike Gallacher, Chief Executive, First Milk

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What’s next?

Our UK rural development plans for 2016 and beyond include the following:

Developing new leaders in dairy farming

We’re launching the Next Generation Dairy Leaders Programme, a scheme for young farmers that aims to identify, nurture and develop the next generation of dairy leaders.

Wildlife conservation

We will begin working with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust to roll-out a nature conservation programme for all of Nestlé’s farms in the UK. The plan will bring farmers together to find opportunities to protect and enhance their farmland wildlife, soil health and water quality.

Flood Protection

We will be working with the Eden Rivers Trust to help our dairy farmers better protect water quality and reduce water consumption.

Dairy ARC trials

We will begin trialling a number of the ARC’s recommendations and interventions at our farms