We were very honoured to be invited to attend the Soil Association’s (SA) Organic Conference 2023, in this our inaugural year, and we were absolutely delighted to learn that the SA’s theme this year is “Organic for All”.
We at The Conscious Way have made no secret of the fact that our founding principle was accessibility. Our goal when building our business model was to compete on price with conventional products, and whilst it has not been easy and will remain a challenge, we are totally committed to spreading the word about the benefits of organic by putting it within reach of most people to not only try, but to carry on choosing organic.
The conference, held at Amnesty International’s HQ in London, outlined the structural interventions required to make organic available, affordable and accessible for all in society and the speakers provided context around the vital importance of increasing awareness of organic as a one-stop-shop for achieving net zero, protecting biodiversity, boosting public health and providing secure and sustainable livelihoods.
The keynote speaker Climate Scientist Professor Tamsin Edwards; Shadow Minister for Food, Farming and Fisheries Daniel Zeichner; Organic Denmark's Mads Sejersen Vinther and Mike Watkins from NielsenIQ, set the scene around the current status of the planet, developments in comparable markets and purchasing habits. Panel discussions provided insight into real life experience of protagonists from the organic sector. Thanks to the panellists Jake Reynolds, Rebecca Curtis, Catriona Mantle, Sarah Brooks, Andy Grundy, Paul Powlesland and Louise Rezler for sharing their knowledge.
For me, one of the biggest revelations of the day was to understand just how far behind we are in comparison to the rest of Europe and many other territories around the world. For example:
- The EU has a 25% organic land target with EU member states developing ambitious policies and incentives to drive organic production and consumption, bolster research and development in organic and ensure all citizens have access to organic food.
- Denmark in particular is very progressive, having what it calls its 30:30:30 target – that is by 2030, 30% of land in organic production, 30% of all consumption to be organic – that is just over six years time!
The result of this is that many other countries have organic markets five times the size they were at the turn of the millennium, whilst the UK has just left it to market forces to provide the key mechanisms for supporting organic.
This is why organic often ends up premiumised and used as a margin opportunity, whilst very little of this premium makes its way back to UK farmers and other producers, and organic is seen as elitist and out of the reach of ordinary people.
Quite rightly, the SA now identifies this as the organic sector’s biggest challenge and is developing plans to address the challenges for scaling organic across production, consumption, sales and the ways it is supported.
None of us should be under any illusion that it will take our combined effort, enthusiasm and commitment to address the reality of the current situation – to stop policymakers ignoring us, to re-educate retailers & wholesalers, and to find ways to make organic products accessible to the majority of consumers.
However, I believe that the biggest and most important challenge we face is to help consumers understand how organic can benefit them and their families, including their pets, and the secret to this is the emerging science around the vital function of a healthy gut microbiome.
I am not sure how we increase awareness of the importance of the origin of everything we put into our bodies, whether that is via our mouth or through the biggest organ in our bodies – our skin, but be sure I will be doing everything I can to help the Soil Association to achieve its vision, because it is exactly the same as ours.
The Soil Association would love to hear from you too, if you would like to be involved in its vital work.
Founder & Director
The Conscious Way Ltd