Blog | 10 Nov, 2021

Applying the IUCN Global Standard for Nature-based Solutions for a more sustainable farming future

Caroline Drummond MBE, LEAF Chief Executive



LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) started over 30 years ago initially as a three year project, to connect farmers and consumers more effectively while addressing the need for a more integrated and sustainable approach for productive agriculture, which supported biodiversity and enhanced ecosystems.


By bringing together the best of modern technology and traditional farming methods, we continue to drive change towards more Nature-based global farming and food systems. Our work has increasingly focused on the importance of farmer-to-farmer learning through a UK wide network of exemplary demonstration farms and world leading innovation centres, putting science based targets centre stage    We are also driving recognition for more sustainable farming in the market place through our global environmental assurance system LEAF Marque which recognises farmers for their environmental credentials.   In addition, our expanding education and public engagement activities delivered through LEAF Education, are bringing people closer to farming and food production and raising understanding amongst young people about the importance of farming in their everyday lives.

Our farmer-to-farmer knowledge generation and exchange approach has inspired and enabled many farmers to adopt more Nature-based Solutions (NbS) and our public outreach and education activities have built knowledge, appreciation and trust amongst citizens.  Through this, LEAF has helped farmers protect, support and restore nature and ecosystems that reside on farms and landscapes, which our food systems and world intrinsically depend on to survive.

By pushing boundaries, LEAF has been a catalyst in addressing societal challenges in agriculture and land management, forging the relationship between food production and natural resources. With global food demand set to double by 2050 and only nine harvests before the 2030 deadline for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the need to protect, sustainably manage and restore earth’s resources whilst producing food, is requisite.

Part of the evidence of LEAF’s contribution towards the IUCN Global Standard for Nature-based Solutions is highlighted by the LEAF Marque Environmental assurance system, a proud member of the ISEAL Alliance[1], in which respected, transparent, sustainable assurance systems are recognised. 

IUCN has recognised this work and dedication. The IUCN Global Standard for NbS was applied to LEAF as an organisation and collective network of people, interventions and actions over the past three decades and the self-assessment reported adherence to this global framework of best practice.

For us, getting involved with the IUCN Global Standard for NbS has been extremely important.  It has allowed us to objectively assess our organisation, question the way we do things and consider new approaches. The self-assessment went well and we carried out the work over about six months, as an NGO this was a bit of uncharted territory! When we began some 30 years ago computers, software, the Internet, emails were in their infancy with many of our original records being paper based and in the memory of the organisation, original farmers, staff and board members.

We are very proud that we have been involved in this work with IUCN, it has been inspiring and enjoyable, and as a profession we have to keep re-assessing what we do to ensure the impact and outcomes of the work that we do are meaningful, robust and resilient.

Perhaps in hindsight many of our records back in the early 1990s should have been recorded more effectively, but I believe more than anything the importance and focus of the IUCN work will help support and challenge action on the ground for organisations such as ourselves. This is only the beginning.

Furthermore, I think for us, it is not just the success of our organisation but indeed the engagement and success of the farmers that we serve. Here are just a few quotes.

  • The way that we need to farm is changing and is going to evolve further – farming needs to evolve for the environment, production and profit and NbS are part of the solution.
  • Lots of small NbS including capturing water, opening up hedge rows and ponds can create a lot more biodiversity and result in big benefits on the farm having a snowball effect

This is a very special time and collective action is key. We are deeply honoured and proud to be working with the IUCN and look forward to continue to strive for a more sustainable farming future.



[1] ISEAL is the global membership organisation for ambitious, collaborative and transparent sustainability systems. We’re driving collective efforts to tackle the most pressing sustainability issues and create a world where markets are a force for good.