Farmer-owned milk buyer and processor First Milk has updated its sustainability plan with requirements for its farmer milk suppliers to reduce their emissions and sequester more carbon on their holdings through more regenerative practices.

The Glasgow-based business says the changes to its two-year old First4Milk sustainability plan will help the company become a leader in dairy sustainability through a commitment to meet net zero carbon emissions by 2040 at the latest; a target of halving carbon footprints at farm level by 2030; and achieving net zero in milk transport and processing by 2035.

Specific targets are to sequester 100,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum on members’ farms by 2025; to increase milk from forage by 10% by 2025 in order to reduce milk suppliers’ reliance on imported feed materials; and to reduce antibiotic use by a further 10% by 2025. In addition, the company aims for all transport and processing activity to be using renewable fuel sources by 2030.

“These stretching commitments will be achieved by continuing to drive carbon efficiency throughout logistics and manufacturing operations, as well as a major focus on working with members on the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices to enhance and quantify soil carbon sequestration,” says the company.

“Dairy farming and food manufacturing are seen as carbon-intensive activities and we know that this is coming under increasing scrutiny across the food chain, with particular focus on upstream ‘Scope 3’ emissions,” advises First Milk chief executive Shelagh Hancock. “These commitments set out the shape of our journey towards net zero, with the ambition of becoming a zero-carbon business as soon as we can – or at the latest by 2040. By leading in this area, we will directly benefit our customers, supporting them in de-carbonising their agri-food supply chains.”

Mark Brooking, the co-operative’s sustainability director, adds “Our farmer members have already committed to grazing their cows, and we will build on this by becoming the champion for regenerative agriculture in dairy production, working with our members using climate-friendly farming practices to improve soil health, enhance biodiversity, improve water quality and enhance productivity whilst sequestering significant quantities of carbon in the soil.”