Waitrose cows cattle

One of the projects will take place in Norfolk, a key sourcing region of Waitrose meat, cereal and vegetable products

The John Lewis Partnership is joining forces with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for two new nature conservation projects in the UK and India.

The partnership will see Waitrose’s parent company invest £2m to fund ecosystem protection and regeneration projects in Norfolk and western Tamil Nadu, South India, two key sourcing regions for both Waitrose and John Lewis.

The pair will work together on the two nature conservation projects, which will take place over a three and five-year period respectively.

With the restoration project in Norfolk – a key source of Waitrose meat, cereal and vegetable products – the duo will look to demonstrate that nature restoration and carbon sequestration are possible “even in one of the most agriculturally intensive areas of the UK”, JLP said.

The retailer added the project aimed to create and restore wildlife-rich habitats across its land and seascape, and that it had the potential to shape its future nature and regenerative agriculture work.

Currently, Waitrose conducts most of its regenerative agricultural research at its Leckford Farm Estate in Hampshire.

“Through our regenerative agriculture approach on our farm at the Leckford Estate, we’ve seen clearly that to rejuvenate our planet, we must learn to work with nature,” said JLP’s director of sustainability Marija Rompani.

“This is why today, 40% of the land is managed primarily or solely to promote biodiversity, and our farmland is managed using regenerative agricultural practices, enhancing soil health and water quality.”

The second project will address water scarcity and water quality in the Noyyal and Bhavani river basins in southern India, which are heavily impacted by the textiles industries in the region.

Textile producers there are a key source for John Lewis cotton products and are overall responsible for the majority of cotton knitwear exports leaving the country.

JLP said the goal of the scheme will be to see key stakeholders in the basin, including local farmers, adopt new collective land and pollution management practices to improve the ecological health of the rivers by 2025.

“As a purpose-driven business, we are committed to doing things better and that includes doing even more to protect and restore the natural ecosystems our business touches,” Rompani said.

“These principles will be at the heart of our work with WWF and we’re delighted to be in partnership with them to deliver significant and meaningful conservation in the UK and abroad.”

The WWF’s director of food strategy David Edwards added: “We’re excited to be working with the John Lewis Partnership to scale up regenerative, nature-friendly agricultural approaches, including in one of the UK’s most intensively farmed landscapes.

“We want to take our learnings from this work and inspire wider change across farming.”

JLP said it would be sharing the findings of both projects with the Science Based Targets Network.

Read more: Tesco and WWF: a ‘ground-breaking’ partnership?

It added the investment would enable it to gather evidence and build a landscape scale exemplar that demonstrates how it can deliver on what it called the “triple challenge” – meeting the food needs of the world while tackling the climate crisis and reversing the loss of nature.

It will also help the company test how rewilding approaches can work in productive landscapes, and demonstrate the benefits of an integrated approach across land, rivers and sea.

This tie-up builds on the JLP’s existing work with the NGO. Most recently, Waitrose joined forces with other UK supermarkets to invest in a $11m green-bond fund aiming to tackle deforestation and illegal soy farming in Brazil. WWF sits on the independent committee that will review and provide input into how the funding will be used.

At last year’s COP26, the supermarket pledged to work in collaboration with the charity to reduce the environmental impact of its operations as well as share key data on areas such as food waste and greenhouse gas emissions.

As part of this industry-wide collaboration, Waitrose has pledged to halve the environmental footprint of a UK shopping basket by 2030. This will be measured by WWF’s ‘sustainable basket metric’ solution, which calculates the environmental impact of commonly bought grocery items in the UK, and was devised in collaboration with Tesco as part of their ongoing partnership.