A new global report by Rabobank suggests 'regenerative agriculture' has become a popular term used by food companies to make sustainability and climate claims, but without clear, results-based frameworks, such claims are difficult to substantiate.
Rabobank New Zealand Head of Sustainable Business Development Blake Holgate told REX host Dominic George it's difficult to define what is or isn't 'regenerative agriculture'.
"There is not necessarily a starting point or a stopping point where regenerative farming stops, starts and conventional farming stops," he said.
There is a difference between organic or eco-type farming systems that often have legally recognised criteria but regenerative farming doesn't have that rigid framework.
"They don't have hard and fast rules around no inputs for example or no use of chemicals or synthetics, that the principle is to reduce it over time.
"If you're not allowed to use something like organics, it's quite easy to certify that, the principle of using less or reducing over time is much harder from a certification point of view."
One of the key findings Holgate identified for New Zealand farming systems is an increasing need to focus on how outcomes can be measured.
He stressed the need to prioritise demonstrating improvement in specific areas over time and identifying the metrics that will prove this over the process of how to specifically get to those targets.
"It's more about the results or outcomes that we are wanting to get towards and less so around demonstrating the practices that we are putting in place to achieve those.
"It's challenging at the moment to demonstrate that it's having a positive effect without having those farm-level measurements and metrics to back it up."
Holgate told George consumers and markets are very quickly moving beyond wanting bold statements and rhetoric from big companies and instead want to see the evidence points to back up what they say they are doing or are going to do.
"Increasingly, companies and supply chains will expose themselves to greater risk if they are not able to have that evidence to back it up.
"The risk of using a term like 'regenerative agriculture' if you don't have those metrics to back it up, you really expose yourself to claims of greenwashing and really losing trust from your consumers in the market."