Lloyds Banking Group held a panel event with Cambridge Judge Business School, focusing on how environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments can support sustainable agriculture, identifying the benefits for UK farmers.

Lloyds Banking Group’s ambassador for the east of England and business platform lead for economic crime prevention, Tom Martin, said: “The ‘Finance in the Field: Investing in the Agricultural Transition’ event was planned to convene experts from finance, farming and research to explore intersections between the sectors.”

The event, part of Cambridge Judge Business School's ESG week, aimed to create a deeper understanding of how sustainable finance can drive positive change in agriculture, reflecting the school's commitment to further integrate ESG into its Executive MBA programme.

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“The major priorities ESG investors are concerned with are environmental issues linked to carbon emissions, biodiversity, and land/water management. This presents an opportunity for UK farmers as they can prove an ESG benefit where they are boosting production and profitability through sustainable practices,” explained Mr Martin.

As the largest lender to British agriculture, Lloyds Banking Group is at the forefront of sustainable finance initiatives and providing practical support for UK farmers.

Mr Martin said: “ESG investment can often seem far removed from farmers' day-to-day realities. Our role is to advocate for farmers in this transition and make ESG tangible from their perspective, not just in institutional terms.

“We want to bridge the gap, framing ESG not as taking land out of food production, but rather as enhancing productivity, food production, and profitability.”

Agriculture sustainability director at Lloyds Banking Group, Ben Makowiecki, added: "There is a lack of clear and trustworthy information about ESG options because these concepts are relatively new and non-regulated, which is currently a barrier.”

“For ESG investment to be practical, the approach needs to be tailored to suit different farm business models, this is where Lloyds is working to expand its support and lending options.

“Investment options include our Clean Growth Financing Initiative (CGFI), which offers fee-free lending for farm businesses to implement sustainable projects and purchases that reduce their impact across water, waste, energy, and carbon/greenhouse gas emissions," explained Mr Makowiecki.

Practical examples of ESG investment shared by Lloyds Banking Group included supporting the Soil Association Exchange (SAX) programme to help farmers transition to greater sustainability.

“This programme provides on-farm consultancy, which we are funding for 1,000 customers to help farmers access funding mechanisms for introducing sustainable practices, addressing six key areas including carbon, soil health and biodiversity,” Mr Makowiecki said.

The panel included Helen Avery, director of nature programmes at Green Finance Institute, and Calum Murray, head of agriculture and food at Innovate UK, who discussed the broader landscape of nature markets and the role of agri-tech innovations in improving productivity.