The impact of intense agricultural practices from industries such as dairy, maize and egg production have left virtually all the UK’s rivers polluted beyond their legal limits. In addition, the combination of repeated discharges of untreated sewage from water companies are harming the river’s ecosystems.
Threats to the biological diversity of waterways are pandemic, with many of our rivers now facing environmental challenges that threaten the very sustainability of their ecosystems.
The Agricultural Crisis
Regulatory bodies responsible for policing polluters appear to have become increasingly ineffective in enforcing the legally required environmental standards and penalising the major offenders. Specifically, with regard to agricultural pollution.
In 2020, the chief executive of the UK’s Environmental Agency stated that the Agency “lacks the powers and resources to tackle farm pollution”. In fact, not one penalty has been enforced against agricultural polluters since the introduction of the 2018 Farming Rules for Water, despite hundreds of proven cases.
Through freedom of information requests to DEFRA and the Environmental Agency (EA) we discovered that the average number of full-time staff allocated to inspect England’s 130,000 farms in 2020 in each of the EA’s 14 regions is only 0.65.
Although more farm inspectors are now being recruited, government funding allocated to farm inspections remains woefully inadequate.
Time for Change
While many farmers across the country are exemplary custodians of nature, sadly this is not always the case. It takes only one major slurry spill to kill the ecosystem of a river – and there is undeniable evidence that environmental regulations are being broken regularly across the UK’s agricultural sector.
Food production companies must step up and assume their share of responsibility for the environmental compliance of their supply chains and – where necessary – contribute financially to supporting farmers in achieving this.
Those organisations that are complicit in river pollution must be exposed and publicly required to disclose measures to mitigate and address river pollution in their supply chains.
The UK’s environmental protection agencies must be adequately funded by the Government to enforce regulations and penalise offenders.
Collaboration is Key
We work actively in partnership with other NGOs and environmental activist groups on a river by river, catchment by catchment basis.
We are also the principal coordinator of a nationwide campaign to promote the restoration of the funding of government agencies across the UK tasked with the environmental protection of our rivers. The aim is to ensure that the monitoring of water quality and the inspection and prosecution of polluting industries is significantly increased.
Our resources are drawn from the expertise and experience of a number of individuals and organisations from across the world of environment/conservation, politics, science, the investment community, the communications & PR industry and the legal profession.
How We Work
We help create noise in the business world, across the political sphere, and by empowering and amplifying the work of other activists and allies. We promote awareness and education of the causes of environmental malpractice by the food industry and other polluters and by advancing knowledge on river pollution mitigation measures.
We identify those industries and specific businesses which are either directly engaged in or whose supply chain is linked to environmental degradation
We work with environmental and conservation groups to build a profile of those industries and organisations implicated in environmental malpractice.
On a campaign-by-campaign basis, we confront these industries and present evidence where their owned production facilities and/or supply chains are responsible for environmental harm
We work with other environmental NGOs and community groups to share knowledge on appropriate nature-based solutions to address these issues of agricultural pollution and to incentivise farmers to uptake practices which mitigate water pollution
We engage with a range of stakeholders – including investors, lenders, customers and relevant political and regulatory bodies. We will not hesitate to leverage political and media connections to apply pressure against environmental offenders
We engage with government to address the failure of regulatory enforcement around agricultural pollution – with legislation to make the agri-businesses take greater responsibility for the environmental conduct of their supply chains being the optimal outcome