Sustainability Report – An Introduction
Welcome to our Corporate Sustainability Report. Since our establishment in 1997, animal welfare and environmental provenance have been at the heart of our operations. Here at The Lakes Free Range Egg Company (The Lakes), we understand that our environmental impact affects not only the welfare of our hens but ourselves, colleagues, customers, and the wider community who all rely on us to operate with environmental best practice both now and for the future.
In 2015 we pushed our sustainability journey to new heights. This push saw us to be the first in our industry to reach complete Scope 1 and 2 carbon emission net zero and resulted in the receipt of various awards over the next 5 years for our environmental efforts. Some of these awards include:
- Queen’s Award for Enterprise – Sustainable Development
- International Green World – Gold Award for Environmental Improvement
- UK Green Apple Award – Environmental Improvement
Despite our previous environmental efforts, we understand that there is still lots more that can be done to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from our operations, particularly concerning Scope 3 emissions both upstream and downstream of our operations.
This is particularly true for our supplier farms as in 2022, agriculture accounted for 11% of total GHG emissions within the UK 1. Agriculture, forestry and other land use is estimated to be responsible for 24% of global GHG emissions 2 of which chickens were responsible for 9.8% 3. Thereby, reducing our Scope 3 emissions will allow us to significantly reduce our carbon footprint in line with the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, ideally limited to 1.5°C.
What is Sustainability?
We adopt the wider scope 3E’s approach to sustainability. Sustainability is not just carbon. What we do in business needs to be ethical, environmentally conscious and economically sound.
Previous Sustainability Contributions
Reducing GHG emissions associated with our energy consumption involves both increasing our energy efficiency and switching to more renewable energy sources. We have employed a range of techniques to increase our energy efficiency, including, voltage regulation to optimise power requirements, optimising our power factor modulation and switching to technologies such as LED lighting, soft start motors, etc.
A range of on-site renewable energy sources have been incorporated into our operations to allow us to reach carbon neutral (Scope 1 and 2 emissions) and significantly reduce our Scope 3 carbon emissions. These include solar panels which provide 100% of our factory and office electricity requirements. Battery storage ensures electricity availability when natural light is too low to generate solar energy.
All heat for our factory and domestic areas, such as reception areas, offices, and canteens, is generated through the use of on-site bore holes and a biomass boiler system. Any excess heat energy is exported to local domestic houses. Our biomass boiler is fed using biomass harvested from trees planted to improve chicken welfare, contributing to our drive to circularity.
Enhancing the natural environment is key to our operations as not only does restoring habitats offer environmental benefits by recapturing GHGs such as carbon and ammonia, it also improves the welfare of our birds. Hens love to roam freely on the condition they are provided with adequate cover to protect them from overhead predators. Therefore, planting trees and shrubs reduces our on-farm GHG emissions as well as providing happier, healthier hens. For this reason, we ensure all of our supplier farms have an active Bio-diversity Action Plan (BAP) in place to plant local tree species and hedgerows. Furthermore, The Lakes developed planting plan is now recognised as the industry standard.
Implementation of these BAPs has resulted in all of our producer ranges being covered by trees at an average of 26% coverage, an industry leading figure. Some of our farms began planting trees more than 25 years ago meaning those trees are now matured and already recapturing significant amounts of carbon and ammonia.
Ammonia reabsorption potential assessments on all producer farms revealed that, when trees have matured, approximately 25% of our total on-farm ammonia emissions may be reabsorbed by trees, and this is using a conservative estimation.
Management of these planted areas is key to maintaining an environment that provides coverage for our hens but also supports local wildlife. Such management includes tree thinning. Thinned trees are fed back into our biomass boiler, providing a sustainable circular economy system with the added benefit of improving biodiversity.
The Lakes are also participants in a Buglife initiative called B lines which aims to connect the country for bees by developing 3km wide pathways across the UK. This involves restoring habitats with wild-flowers and erecting bee ‘hotels’ made of bamboo and dead wood on areas of our land. This initiative will also improve soil health and provide habitats for many insects which will in turn further support our local flora and fauna. It is biodiversity projects like this that have encouraged the return of barn owls and red squirrels to our land.
We employ a rainwater harvesting system to capture, filter, and store rainwater. This ‘brownwater’ has a much lower carbon footprint as it has not been treated to a potable (drinking water) standard, a process requiring a lot of energy. We use brownwater in all of the toilets throughout our factory and offices, reducing our treated water consumption and thereby lowering the associated carbon emissions.
Improving transportation efficiency is important to lower our carbon emissions and therefore environmental impact. 60% of our producer farms are located within 50 miles of our packing centre, with the remainder of farms located along primary delivery routes. This increases our efficiency as back haul allows 80% of our delivery trucks to stop and collect return loads, greatly reducing the number of miles our trucks travel empty. Additionally, all of our trucks are currently classified as Euro scope 5 or 6 with the aim to achieve a scope 6 fleet to further reduce emissions.
To reduce indirect haulage emissions, we source local materials where possible, such as site-saved recycled building materials. For example, concrete, rock, and waste building materials are saved and crushed on-site for use in future projects.
Awareness of our Scope 3 emissions has propelled us to provide our employees with an option of communal transport to work. This allows access to work for many people who can’t drive, as we are situated in rural Cumbria where public transportation links can be poor. Reducing the number of individual cars our employees drive to work also allows us to reduce our Scope 3 emissions generated from employee transportation. A cycle to work scheme is also available to all of our employees.
We look to reduce waste at every available opportunity whilst committing to reducing, reusing, and recycling – an effort resulting in zero waste to landfill. Some examples of our waste reduction are utilising reusable egg trays to prevent significant amounts of single use egg trays going to landfill and replacing paper towels with hand dryers within our offices and factory. We understand that implementing small substitutions makes a large difference over time, for example, we converted from providing plastic sealed tea bags to 100% biodegradable tea bags for all of our office and factory employees. This small change supports our zero waste to landfill position and significantly reduces the amount of microplastics that are released into the environment or are ingested, thereby not only protecting the health of the planet but also our workforce too.
A move to LED lighting throughout our operations not only improved our energy efficiency and thereby reduced our consumption of electricity, but LED lights last 50,000 hours and therefore require less frequent replacement, directly reducing waste.
Paper, cardboard, clean wood and plastic from our operations is recycled. Liquid waste egg and shell are 100% reused or recycled.
A significant proportion of our Scope 3 emissions came from on-farm manure management. Now 90% of this manure is used on farm of origin as fertiliser per the Code of Good Agricultural Practice, and the remainder is used in anaerobic digestion or electric generation.
Agricultural Code of Good Practice states that poultry manure and litter must be kept dry during storage and only the right amount should be spread in the right place at the right time when conditions are cool, windless, and damp 4.
To reduce scope 3 emissions downstream of our operations, where possible we pack our eggs in fully recyclable packaging meaning there need be no waste to landfill following consumption of our product as the pulp packaging shells themselves can also be composted at home.
In 2021 British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA) reported that 80% of carbon emissions from free range laying poultry farms were caused by chicken feed itself 5. An important contributor to these emissions is soy which can have a very large carbon footprint due to deforestation of land used to grow soyabeans. In the UK, the standard free range laying feed ration contains 19% soy and thereby gives rise to the aforementioned substantial carbon emissions resulting from feed.
To reduce our Scope 3 emissions, all of our producer farm’s feed specifications were, with resource over the past 5 years, altered to contain just 8% soy with a future target of 4%. Sourcing this soy from North America and thereby guaranteeing its deforestation free status reduces carbon emissions from 6,500kgCO2e/tonne to 500kgCO2e/tonne. Together, these feed specification alterations result in a significant 62% reduction in our total scope 3 on-farm carbon emissions. Our soy policy is in draft and will be available shortly.
Improving sustainability does not just require environmental effort it requires ethical consideration too. For us this involves charity work, ensuring fair working conditions and equal opportunities for our workforce, encouraging and facilitating employee skills development, providing education for the wider community, and much more.
Our Laid With Love™ free range eggs come from chickens fed on feed supplemented by a marigold extract called lutein. Not only does this give our yolks a wonderful golden colour but it ensures our eggs are rich in lutein. Lutein has a range of known health benefits to humans including reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration in humans.
From every dozen of Laid With Love™ eggs sold we donate 2 pence to cancer research, resulting in tens of thousands of pounds being raised for this cause of critical importance. Internally, we also hold annual Hawaiian shirt and Christmas jumper days, and our employees partake in charity events such as Gelt Gladiator (a local charity mud run) with the proceeds being matched by The Lakes and donated to various charities including Ronald McDonald House Charities, Cash For Kids, Mind and Blood Bikes Cumbria.
Equality is of major importance within our operations, 52% of our employees in a managerial role identify as female, a particularly powerful statistic for an agriculturally based enterprise.
Education is also one of our key focuses. We have supported a significant number of associates through apprenticeship schemes with 50% being finalists for regional and national awards. We also effectuate visits to local schools, facilitate A level student visits, and work with our local discovery centre to help to educate as many people as possible on the farm to fork process.
Collaboration with a number of universities across the country allows us to support a variety of research projects concerning the improvement of bird welfare.
Our Current Position
Currently, The Lakes is completely Scope 1 and 2 carbon net zero, an incredible achievement, but there is still more to be done. We have multiple Scope 3 carbon emissions reduction plans in place to fulfil our target of being net zero by 2030.
Future Carbon Reduction Targets
Supplier Farm Targets
The largest proportion of our Scope 3 GHG emissions result from supplier farm operations. Therefore, we must work closely with our suppliers to inform and support the reduction of GHG emissions from their working practices. Some targets for reducing our Scope 3 emissions are outlined below.
- To further understand our Scope 3 carbon emissions, 100% of supplier farms will have carbon assessments in place by the end of 2023. This allows development of carbon roadmaps for all supplier farms which will be in place by mid 2024.
- We will advise and facilitate the use of renewable electricity on all of our supplier farms, aiming for an overall scope 3 on-farm carbon emission reduction of 70% by 2030.
- All soy within our supply chain is guaranteed deforestation free and sourced from North America resulting in a 59% decrease in scope 3 on-farm carbon emissions. Currently this uses mass-balance but year-round segregated supply is our future target.
- We are investing £2 million in data systems and artificial intelligence to increase efficiency across all supplier farms thereby lowering our scope 3 emissions.
- We are encouraging investment in energy efficient plant and equipment on all supplier farms.
- Continue to develop farm BAPs to maximise CO2 sequestration, ammonia capture, and biodiversity improvement.
- A workstream with large potential to sustainably improve our farming operations is improving soil health. This is becoming a significant focus of our future endeavours.
Despite reaching scope 1 and 2 net zero carbon emissions, we can and therefore will take more measures to reduce our carbon emissions. Such plans include harvesting more rainwater to utilise brownwater for all transport washing.
Additionally, we are investing £1 million into a project to render us 100% grid-free in our electric requirements.
We are also continually improving our biodiversity to support local wildlife and aid natural habitat restoration. We plan to utilise regenerative agricultural practices which will further increase our on-site carbon sequestration potential in the long-term.
Finally, we are currently looking at Science-Based Targets for the future.
Sustainability Report Conclusions
Having already reached Scope 1 and 2 net zero GHG emissions, The Lakes now aims to reduce our Scope 3 carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rising above 1.5°C (above pre-industrial levels). We have developed a range of plans and targets focussing on our upstream supply chain operations to allow us to reach our long-term goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2030 as well as further reducing internal carbon emissions where possible. Most notably, altering feed rations and sourcing soy from deforestation free origins enables a 62% reduction in our on-farm scope 3 carbon emissions.
- Agri-Climate Report 2022, Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, 27th October 2022. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/agri-climate-report-2022/agri-climate-report-2022
- Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data, United States Environmental Protection Agency, 15th February 2023. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-data
- Part 1: Greenhouse gas emissions & environmental impacts of the poultry industry, Farming Connect, Business Wales, 8th October 2020. Available at: https://businesswales.gov.wales/farmingconnect/news-and-events/technical-articles/part-1-greenhouse-gas-emissions-environmental-impacts-poultry-industry
- Code of Good Agricultural Practice (COGAP) for Reducing Ammonia Emissions, Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, 27th July 2018. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/code-of-good-agricultural-practice-for-reducing-ammonia-emissions/code-of-good-agricultural-practice-cogap-for-reducing-ammonia-emissions
- Net zero and environmental sustainability in free range egg production, British Free Range Egg Producers Association, published in June 2021. Available at: https://www.bfrepa.co.uk/pdf/download/net-zero-and-environmental-sustainability-in-free-range-egg-production.pdf