The evidence for private sector drivers for climate action in Scottish agriculture

Greenhouse gas emissions across the agricultural supply chain need to reduce in order to meet the targets in Scotland’s Climate Change Plan update. As the majority of emissions in the agricultural supply chain are generated at farm level, farmers face pressure to take mitigating action. At the same time, commercial operators are expecting an increased demand for low-carbon goods from consumers, including food. Detailed evidence on the extent and nature of private sector drivers of on-farm climate action is lacking.

This research provides an overview of the evidence for private sector drivers for climate change action in Scottish agriculture. The researchers undertook a rapid evidence review of the available literature in combination with stakeholder interviews.

Summary of findings

The main driver placed on Scottish agricultural producers from the private sector is to complete baseline carbon audits of their current operations. Although this is as yet not widespread, it is common in some sub-sectors and is anticipated to rapidly spread across the whole industry.

  • There is little evidence to suggest that the process of carbon audits and action plan creation has led to significant emissions reduction in Scottish agriculture at the producer level.
  • The evidence strongly suggests that farmers respond primarily to policy and market signals, although the balance between these varies across sectors.
  • Consumer preferences shape the food products that retailers, wholesalers and processors market and sell. Consumer demand for low carbon goods is set to increase, and so decarbonising value chains will be part of staying in business in a competitive market.
  • The UK retail industry is largely consolidated into a handful of large organisations, which possesses significant leverage over producers. Industry expectations suggest that mitigation demands placed on upstream suppliers will increase rapidly.

Further details on the findings can be found in the report attached.

If you require the report in an alternative format such as a Word document, please contact or 0131 651 4783.

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