ESG in agribusiness: Growing long-term relationships with the land and its people

Paringahau Station has been in the Holdsworth family for 120 years – it’s the goal of owner Jasper Holdsworth to have it stay in the family for another 120 years. That’s why ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) and sustainability are central to Paringahau’s operations.

“We really see ourselves as a custodian to the farm,” says Jasper. “I’m fifth generation, my kids will be sixth generation. One of the things we’re really trying to achieve here is we want a beautiful, productive, easy working farm that’s a fantastic place to live and work.”

Paringahau is located in Gisborne, and comprises around 2,700 hectares and 20,000 stock units, around 60% of which are sheep. The rest are cattle and a small cropping component also.

Native tree planting and farming emissions calculation

Jasper is aware of the additional scrutiny New Zealand farmers have faced around their environmental footprint. With this in mind, Paringahau has implemented a range of measures around water, carbon and nutrient run-off which  has included planting native trees along water ways, undertaking work to understand the condition of native forest across the farm and working to protect those from livestock, and starting trapping and noxious weed programmes. Jasper has also undertaken strategic planting of multiple tree species in areas of the farm where it’s difficult to muster or where there are less productive, dry faces.

Another important initiative has been incorporating the farm’s pre-1990 forest into the Emissions Trading Scheme, as well as calculating the farm’s carbon emissions.

Farming is complex and requires strong governance practices

For Jasper, it’s also been important to focus on the social and governance sides of ESG. “We’ve really encouraged both recreational and social activities on the farm for both our farming staff and the community,” explains Jasper. “Governance is also another important aspect in running a farm. When I compare our farming operation to the businesses we operate in manufacturing and other spaces, farming is a lot more complex than people might think. We have taken all the advice that we can get from advisory partners right through to our stock agents, reps, other suppliers and partners and the general farming environment. All of those have become quite crucial collaborations.”

An important part of the governance work for Paringahau has been the establishment of an advisory team that effectively operates as a private farm discussion group. This involves two experienced farmers who live and operate farms nearby. As Jasper says, “its an opportunity  for a 30,000 foot overview of the business and a sounding board for  where we need to go.”

Succession planning key to a sustainable farm

A key part of sustainability is making sure the farm has longevity, and that means front footing what often becomes an elephant in the room – succession planning.

“Succession planning is always a complicated piece of the puzzle, but we’ve navigated our way through that,” explains Jasper. “A key learning under succession and governance has been the independent and critical role the accountant plays. The accounting firm took into account all the dreams and wishes of every family member so that has really helped in the succession planning for our family businesses.”

ESG is a long-term journey, and it requires a long-term partnership with a trusted adviser. As Jasper says, “we value our long-term relationship with BDO who bring holistic expertise under environmental, social and governance which all farmers should take consideration of.”

When embarking on any ESG journey, it’s important to work with a business adviser that truly understands your industry and business. Talk to our specialist agribusiness and business advisers for advice around ESG or succession planning. Our advisers have a broad range of farming qualifications and on-farm experience, and can provide specialist advice relating to carbon footprint management and farm level emissions calculations, Emissions Trading Scheme consulting and farm finance transformation. Our specialist succession planning advice will help you reach a favourable outcome for all involved.

Learn more about our specialist agribusiness offering here.