An open letter to Secretaries of State - RSA

An open letter to Secretaries of State

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In these testing and volatile times, little is more important than tackling the global climate and nature crises and securing the nation’s long-term health and wellbeing.

The UK must not use future trade deals to offshore its climate and nature commitments to countries with fewer resources and weaker environmental standards.

The RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission has written to the Secretaries of State in Defra, International Trade, Health, Business, and International Development, as well as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to urge them to work together to weigh up carefully the wide-ranging implications of the trade decisions they take.

The breadth of signatories demonstrates how important this is to so many people across food and farming, environment and countryside. The 100 plus signatories include:

  • Business figures including chief executive of Waitrose, Rob Collins; Andrew Selley, chief executive of Bidfood; and Judith Batchelar, director of brand at Sainsbury’s
  • Leading environmentalists including Natural England chair, Tony Juniper; chair of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard-Boyd; Friends of the Earth’s CEO, Craig Bennett; and Beccy Speight, CEO of RSPB,
  • Campaign groups and NGOs, including Caroline Normand, director of advocacy at Which?; Hilary McGrady, director-general of the National Trust; Crispin Truman, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England; and Lynn Stubbings, President, Women’s Institute.
  • Representative bodies including Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union; Tim Breitmeyer, president of the Country Land and Business Association, Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health; Tenant Farmers’ Association chief executive, George Dunn; and Caroline Drummond, CEO of LEAF.
  • Food campaigners including Baroness Rosie Boycott, Dee Woods, Food Ethics Council Executive Director, Dan Crossley; and Sustain chief executive, Kath Dalmeny
  • Academics from across specialties including professors Tim Jackson, Tim Lang, Janet Dwyer, Tim Benton, Lorna Dawson, Michael Lee, Tom MacMillan and Michael Winter.


Read the full open letter with signatories list below, or view as a PDF here 


27 September 2019

Dear Secretary of State,

In these testing and volatile times, little is more important than tackling the global climate and nature crises and securing the nation’s long-term health and wellbeing.

The RSA’s Food, Farming and Countryside Commission reports, published in July, offer a bold and ambitious, yet realistic and optimistic version of a future which does both. They underscore the clear connections between farming and environmental stewardship; healthy, affordable food and the public’s health and wellbeing; flourishing rural economies and thriving communities. We are delighted to support their ambition. 

Above all, they’re a call to action – to governments, businesses and to civic society – and for joined up, resolute leadership for the radical and practical steps needed. The Commission’s 15 recommendations include reversing the decline in the nation’s health and wellbeing with more support for healthy, affordable food, especially British fruit, veg, nuts, fish, meat and dairy from sustainable sources; committing to a workable transition plan for climate and nature friendly farming; providing the resources needed for a just and green transition, including a National Agroecology Investment Bank.

Taken together, they add up to a programme for change on a scale commensurate with the challenges, highlighting areas where people in different sectors, walks of life and political parties can find common ground.

A pre-requisite for this progressive agenda, and all the benefits it will bring, is a level playing field in whatever trading environment follows. The risks to citizens, rural communities, food and farming businesses are immense if we rush into the wrong trade deals after Brexit. UK Governments have established their ambitions to be world leading in environmental performance; this cannot be achieved by offshoring our responsibilities to countries who have less capacity, fewer resources or lower standards than we do.

The Commission has described a compelling future, which we all want to help happen. Its work was showcased at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York. Let’s not undermine this opportunity to demonstrate strong UK leadership to invest in a more sustainable future, through pressures to do trade deals, at any cost.

Yours faithfully,

Sir Ian Cheshire

Chair, Food, Farming and Countryside Commission & Chairman, Barclays Bank UK


Andrew Selley

Commissioner. Chief Executive, Bidfood

Ann Jones

Commissioner. Vice Chair, National Federation of Women's Institutes

Baroness Barbara Young

Commissioner. Member of the House of Lords and Chair, Woodland Trust

David Fursdon

Commissioner. Chair, Future of Farming Review

Prof. David Hill CBE

Commissioner. Chairman, The Environment Bank

Dr David Pencheon

Commissioner. Honorary Professor, Health and Sustainable Development, University of Exeter

Dame Fiona Reynolds

Commissioner. Master, Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Helen Browning OBE

Commissioner. Chief Executive, Soil Association

Judith Batchelar OBE

Commissioner. Director, Sainsbury's Brand

Kath Dalmeny

Commissioner. Chief Executive, Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming

Shirley Cramer CBE

Commissioner. Chief Executive, Royal Society for Public Health

Sue Pritchard

Commissioner. Director, The RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission

Prof. Tim Jackson

Commissioner. Director, Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity, University of Surrey

Ufi Ibrahim

Commissioner. Chairman, Hotels Energy Board

Andrew Lazenby

CEO, Royal Agricultural Society of England and Innovation for Agriculture

Andrew Stephen

CEO, Sustainable Restaurant Association

Anna Taylor

Executive Director, Food Foundation

Anna van der Hurd

CEO, A-Team Foundation

Ben Goldsmith

CEO, Menhaden

Benet Northcote

Board Member, Conservative Environment Network

Bevis Watts

CEO, Triodos Bank UK

Caroline Drummond MBE

CEO, LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming)

Caroline Mason CBE

CEO, The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

Caroline Normand

Director of Advocacy, Which?

Chris Sherwood

Chief Executive, RSPCA

Christopher Price

Chief Executive, Rare Breeds Survival Trust

Christopher Stopes

Chair, English Organic Forum

Corinne Pluchino

Chief Executive, Campaign for National Parks

Craig Bennett

CEO, Friends of the Earth

Crispin Truman

Chief Executive, Campaign to Protect Rural England

Dan Crossley

Executive Director, Food Ethics Council

Dan Parker

Director, Veg Power

Prof. David Barling

Director, Centre for Agriculture, Food and Environmental Management, University of Hertfordshire

David Read

Chairman, Prestige Purchasing

Dee Woods

Food and climate justice activist

Dennis Overton OBE

Chair, Scotland Food and Drink

Lord Curry of Kirkhale

Member of the House of Lords, Chair, Food and Farming Futures

Ed Davey

Author, Given Half A Chance: Ten Ways to Save the World

Prof. Elizabeth Dowler

Professor of Food and Social Policy, University of Warwick

Ellen Fay

Executive Director, Sustainable Soils Alliance

Emma Howard-Boyd

Chair, Environment Agency

Prof. Erik Millstone

Professor of Science Policy, University of Sussex

Ffinlo Costain

Chief Executive, Farmwel

Fiona Howie

CEO, Town and Country Planning Association

Gabriel Kaye

Director, Biodynamic Land Trust

Dr Gabriel Scally

Chair, Soil Association

George Dunn

Chief Executive, Tenant Farmers Association and TFA Cymru

Grace Yu, Sarah Butler Sloss, Claire Birch

Trustees, The Ashden Trust

Graham Biggs MBE

Chief Executive, Rural Services Network

Sir Graham Wynne

World Resources Institute Distinguished Fellow

Greg Parston

Chair, The Dartington Hall Trust

Heather Peck

Chair, Lantra

Hilary McGrady

Director General, The National Trust

Prof. Ian Bateman OBE

Professor of Environmental Economics at the Land, Environment, Economics and Policy Institute, University of Exeter

James Bielby

CEO, Federation of Wholesale Distributors

Dr Jane Davidson

Pro Vice-Chancellor for External Engagement and Sustainability, University of Wales Trinity Saint David

Prof. Janet Dwyer

Professor of Rural Policy, University of Gloucestershire

Prof. Joanna Price

Vice-Chancellor, Royal Agricultural University

John Davies

President, NFU Cymru

John Woods

Consultant, Public Policy Synthesis

Julia Aglionby

Executive Director, Foundation for Common Land

Kate Ashbrook

General Secretary, Open Spaces Society

Keith Tyrell

Director, Pesticide Action Network UK

Kristin Bash

Lecturer in Public Health, University of Sheffield

Prof. Lorna Dawson

Head of Soil Forensics, The James Hutton Institute

Lynne Stubbings

Chair, National Federation of Women's Institutes

Prof. Maggie Rae

President, Faculty of Public Health

Margaret Clark

Chair, Plunkett Foundation

Mark Sainsbury

Co-owner, The Zetter Group

Martin Lines

UK Chair, Nature Friendly Farming Network

Mat Roberts

CEO, Shetland Amenity Trust

Prof. Matt Lobley

Director, Centre for Rural Policy Research, University of Exeter

Matthew Naylor

Managing Director, Naylor Flowers and Farmers Weekly Columnist

Matthew Taylor

Chief Executive, The RSA

Prof. Michael Lee

Head of Sustainable Agricultural Sciences, Rothamsted Research

Prof. Michael Winter OBE

Professor of Land Economy and Society, University of Exeter

Prof. Mike Berners-Lee

Lancaster Environment Centre, University of Lancaster

Minette Batters

President, National Farmers Union

Nicola Close

Chief Executive, Association of Directors of Public Health

Pam Warhurst CBE

Chair, Incredible Edible

Patrick Casement

Chair, Northern Ireland Environment Link

Patrick Holden CBE

Chief Executive, Sustainable Food Trust

Peter Ainsworth

Chair, The Heritage Alliance

Philip Lymbery

CEO, Compassion in World Farming

Rebecca Speight

Chief Executive, RSPB

Rob Collins

Chief Executive, Waitrose

Robin Stott

Co-chair, Climate and Health Alliance

Roger Kerr

CEO, Organic Farmers and Growers CIC

Roland Bonney

COO, Benchmark Holdings plc

Baroness Rosie Boycott

Member of the House of Lords and food campaigner

Sally Uren

Chief Executive, Forum for the Future

Shaun Spiers

CEO, Green Alliance

Simon Wright

Founder, Wright's Food Emporium

Tanya Steele


Dr Tara Garnett

Director, Food Climate Research Network

Prof. Tim Benton

Director, Energy Environment and Resources Department, Chatham House

Tim Breitmeyer

President, Country Land and Business Association

Tim Eyles

Consultant, Taylor Wessing

Prof. Tim Lang

Professor of Food Policy, City, University of London

Sir Tim Smit KBE

CEO, Eden Project

Tom Curtis

Director, 3Keel

Prof. Tom MacMillan

Elizabeth Creak Chair in Rural Policy and Strategy, Royal Agricultural University

Tony Greenham

CEO, South West Mutual

Dr Tony Juniper CBE

Environmentalist and Chair, Natural England

Lord Victor Adebowale

Member of the House of Lords and Chief Executive, Turning Point



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  • This is a compelling presentation, but it requires an additional component. Although those of us concerned about the UK, the US, and world affairs tend to know our way around the world, most people do not. As we bark at the scary climate change situation, the vast majority of people on earth--adults and children--are unfamiliar the names, people and situations associated with most of the countries on earth. If we are to promote a global society that cares deeply about the world and its people, we should engage in an effort to help everyone to become familiar with the continents, countries, cities, and communities that define our world. This is the first step toward compassion, a necessary step toward the altruism that will, no doubt, become essential for survival.

  • Huzzah!  What about circulating this to the 29,000 Fellows for signature?

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