Sharpham Dairy joins B Corp ranks
Cheese can be a force for good, according to Sharpham Dairy, which is one of a number of artisan cheesemakers joining ethical accreditation schemes.
Devon-based Sharpham, owned by Greg and Nicky Parsons, has successfully achieved B Corporation status – a rigorous accreditation that recognises companies with outstanding social and environmental standards. Sharpham is the first cheesemaker in the UK to gain the accreditation, after a year-long process involving external audits in five areas: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment and Customers.
“When we took over the dairy in 2019, we set out to use cheese as a force for good – cultivating a business that our team, suppliers, customers and retailers are proud to be associated with,” said Greg Parsons. “B Corp is the best way to validate we’re doing things the right way.”
Environmental and animal welfare campaigners have become increasingly vocal in their criticism of the dairy industry, which Parsons said was part of the motivation for applying for B Corp.
“Dairy gets labelled as dairy, but there is a huge difference between a US farm with 10,000 cows in big sheds compared to small British farms with 100 cows out at pasture. The media takes a broad-brush approach, so we need to communicate how we are different and be completely transparent.”
Other cheese companies are coming to similar conclusions, with makers signing up to a variety of ethical schemes.
The Sustainable Food Trust, founded by Hafod cheddar-maker Patrick Holden, is currently working on a Global Farm Metric, which will score the environmental performances of farms globally. Meanwhile, cheesemakers including The Ethical Dairy have signed up to the Pasture for Life scheme, which accredits producers working with animals fed on 100% pasture.
Irish government body Bord Bia has also developed a sustainable dairy farming accreditation called Origin Green, used by Cashel Farmhouse Cheesemakers in Tipperary.
Neal’s Yard Dairy launched a series of articles on sustainability and cheese through its website and social media in January.
“We wanted to give a platform to our producers to talk about how they farm and make cheese,” said digital communications manager Lydia West. “There’s a drive among cheesemaking farmers to improve the quality of their milk so they can make the best cheese. This is invariably leading them to look at farming in a more sustainable and environmentally responsible way.”