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Sustainable food, organic farming and nature development – Header image (photo)

Sustainable food, organic farming and nature development

Impact measures

The organically managed land on the farms which Triodos Bank and Triodos Investment Management financed in 2017 could produce the equivalent of 30 million meals in 2017, or enough food to provide a sustainable diet for approximately 27,000 people (2016: 29,000).

Together they financed approximately 32,000 hectares of organic farmland across Europe. This means one football-pitch sized piece of farmland for every 13 customers, each one producing enough for 550 meals per year.

We also financed 31,000 hectares of nature and conservation land (2016: 28,000 hectares), representing around 450m2 of nature and conservation land per customer.

Over 146,000 smallholder farmers (2016: 184,000) in 17 emerging market countries worldwide were paid directly and fairly upon delivery of their harvest in 2017, as a result of the trade finance that Triodos Sustainable Trade Fund provides to farmers’ cooperatives and agribusinesses. In 2017 the clients of the fund had 60,000 hectares of certified organic farmland under cultivation (2016: 98,000). An additional 17,000 hectares was in conversion (2016: 37,000) – an important number because it takes time before conventional farmland is ready to be certified organic.

These farmers’ harvest that is brought to international markets, consists of 12 different fair trade and organic products, such as cocoa, coffee, oils and quinoa. The amount of coffee exported in 2017 translates to 2.6 billion cups of coffee. That is approximately 3.800 cups of coffee supported per customer.

Organic food and farming – Impact measures (graphic)

Our vision and activities

Percentage of our loans and funds investments to the organic sector and nature development

Organic food and farming – 4.9% of our loans to the organic sector (pie chart)
  • 3.1% to organic farming
  • 1.9% to organic food businesses
  • 1.0% to nature development

Organic food loans and investments by subsector

Organic food lending by subsector (pie chart)

Organic farming loans and investments by subsector

Organic farming lending by subsector (pie chart)
% derived from data at the time of publication

Our vision on organic farming and nature development

Our relationship with the soil and the earth requires a systemic perspective.

We cannot afford to keep a world view that thinks of agricultural land as the starting point for a limitless process of extraction. Rather, agriculture needs to be seen within the context of a natural system. This system includes nutrients, water, biodiversity, animal welfare and social conditions.

The impact of farming

We need farmers who can adopt methods that conserve and recycle natural resources. We want to help create a vibrant and diverse agricultural sector with a larger number of smaller farms, more closely connected to local communities and local consumers.

Respecting animal welfare is a fundamental aspect of how we interact with the world around us and a core principle of organic farming.

Organic farming has subscribed itself to safeguarding and respecting nature. As such, having higher animal welfare standards than in conventional farming is one of its major goals.

Respecting animal rights comes out of the belief that people have a responsibility as the dominant species on this planet. There is also scientific evidence that higher animal welfare standards in organic farming also mean healthier produce for humans. High animal welfare standards mean healthier animals, and positive benefits for people who can enjoy food which doesn’t rely on the use of artificial hormones or antibiotics.

Our priorities

We focus on supporting farmers who demonstrate the benefits of sustainable and organic agricultural principles.

We also want to stimulate the creation of more sustainably farmed land by financing the conversion of land from conventional to organic approaches. We also want to support the healthy development of the wider food sector through financing food producers, distributors, retailers and caterers – of various sizes – who demonstrate their commitment to sustainable food and who meet the growing demand for organic food.

Our activities

Organic farming doesn’t use artificial fertilisers and pesticides, recognises the importance of biodiversity and integrates the highest standards of animal welfare.

All of Triodos Bank’s agricultural loans are to farms that are either certified organic, in conversion to organic production or demonstrate a clear alignment with those principles and practices. In addition we lend to retail, wholesale, distribution and catering business who supply organic food, drinks and other products. Through the funds managed by Triodos Investment Management, we also support organic and fair-trade food producers in emerging markets, including the Triodos Organic Growth Fund a long-term private equity ever green fund.

In 2016 and 2017 Triodos Bank also collaborated with partners, including Eosta, an international distributor of organic and fair fruit and vegetables to develop an approach to accounting for the ‘true cost’ of food and farming companies.


Organic agricultural land (hectares) and share of total agricultural land in Europe 2011

Organic agricultural land (hectares) and share of total agricultural land in Europe 2011 (map)

Source: FiBL

Triodos Bank finances 32,000 hectares of organic farm land across Europe in 2017.

Case study



Sustainable food, organic farming and nature development – Case study (photo)

What challenge was the source of inspiration for your project?

The scale of agriculture started to change dramatically in the 1960s and 70s. Increasingly large farms have had all sorts of effects, many of them negative: animals freedom of movement and well-being has often declined. By contrast organic food and farming takes the environment and animal welfare into consideration; animals have more space than on conventional farms, for example, and genetic engineering and chemical pesticides are not permitted. DO-IT’s challenge has been to promote this more environmentally-sound approach to farming.

What innovation did you use to address this problem?

DO-IT was founded in 1991 by Poppe Braam. The company, and its founder, is driven by a strong commitment to stimulate organic farming and build sustainable trade relations with, and between, farmers in developing countries and buyers in Europe. The company has developed relationships with 170 suppliers in more than 20 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America buying over 850 products from them; from nuts, quinoa, dried fruit and sugar, to rice and olive oil. The company works closely with local farmers and cooperatives and shares knowledge about organic farming practices. DO-IT has also launched two consumer brands – La BIO IDEA and Amaizin – that are available in European health-food stores.

What impact did Triodos Bank have on your company?

In 2016, Triodos Organic Growth Fund took a minority stake in DO-IT. In the Fund, DO-IT has found an investor with a shared vision and a commitment for the long-term to help DO-IT realise its growth and other ambitions.

Triodos Organic Growth Fund was launched in January 2014 as a long-term ‘evergreen’ fund. It invests in equity in leading, non-listed companies in sustainable consumer products in Europe, with a focus on organic food, sustainable clothing and textiles, and personal care.

What impact has your company had on your business sector?

In 2018, DO-IT will co-sponsor, for the fifth time, a popular series of six dialogues about the future of agriculture and food from a global perspective. ‘It’s the Food, my friend’, aims to co-create a broad, long-term vision on food that contributes to an economically, socially and ecologically sustainable food and agriculture sector. Audiences of around 300 people from different backgrounds: farmers, students, bankers, traders, consultants and government representatives participate in the event.

In addition, Poppe Braam, DO-IT’s CEO, is an active board member of the Dutch association of organic producers and traders (BioNederland) and Stichting EKO-Keurmerk, a well-known and the oldest organic quality label for organic food in The Netherlands. He also actively participates in strengthening and creating the International Organic Trade Association.

What has been the local impact of your company on the community?

Fortunately, an increasing number of consumers choose to buy and eat organic. To meet this demand, it is essential to increase organic cultivation, including in developing countries. Thanks to the long-term relationships that DO-IT has built up with farmers and producers in recent years it is in a position to help meet this demand and put the interests of farmers first as a result. DO-IT has mainly set up its own agricultural projects, with small local farmers and cooperatives. The goal of their fair-trade projects is not just to access premium quality certified organic products but also to contribute to a better quality of life for the farmers it works with.

How does Triodos Bank share your vision?

Society consumes more natural resources than the earth can provide. This global overuse, driven by a short-term consumerist mindset, leads to natural resource depletion, such as declining soil fertility and a loss of biodiversity, and decreased resilience in the supply chains of food and other consumer products. These challenges call for a much-needed transition to sustainable production and consumption; a transition that DO-IT and Triodos Bank are both committed to.

Triodos Bank aims to accelerate the transition to more sustainable agricultural systems and consumption patterns by financing businesses, like DO-IT, across the supply chain that safeguard nature, promote fairness and transparency, improve livelihoods of farmers and encourage mindful consumption.


The Ecological Footprint method, developed by the Global Footprint Network and reported by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), has been used to estimate the total number of people that could be fed from organic land farmed as a result of Triodos Bank finance. This is a theoretical approach that shows the link between the diets that people eat and the farmland that provides their food.

The Ecological Footprint (EF) is a measure of the global hectares (gHa) associated with any resource consuming economic activity. The Global Footprint Network has estimated the EF for many countries. They estimate that for the whole of the EU an average of 0.91gHa of cropland and 0.23gHa of grazing land are required to feed each person for one year from the farmed land, in Europe and beyond. They provide EF estimates for each of the five countries where Triodos Bank finances organic farming. This data has been used to estimate the number of people that could be fed three meals each day from the whole organically farmed area of the farms financed by Triodos Bank in Europe.

For Europe, we only include farms that are still in organic farming at year-end. Care farms are included when their main activity and income is organic farming, with only an element of care.

A farmer in emerging market countries is considered a smallholder farmer when its farmed area is below 10 hectares.

To calculate the cups of coffee, we use about 12 grammes of green coffee beans per cup.

In our calculations we only measure the projects with a direct relationship to our finance or investment. Because we are often the principle source of finance for a project we include 100% of the hectares when we co-finance a project. If it is not possible to pull 100% of the data required, we use conservative estimates.

The ‘Impact per customer’ calculations used throughout the annual report are based on a total of 681,000 customers at the end of 2017.