Riverford Wicked Leeks

Every business claims to be green and socially responsible. We want to do better than vague claims and greenwash, so carried out some research with the University of Exeter to learn more about Riverford’s sustainability.

This is an overview of the findings and our environmental position.

Organic farming is kinder to the planet.

The principle behind organic farming is that we should learn from and farm in sympathy with nature, rather than suppressing and dominating it. Organic management:

  • Protects natural resources, such as fresh water and healthy soils
  • Encourages wildlife; there is up to 50% more wildlife on organic farms
  • Avoids pollution from artificial chemicals
  • Uses less energy per kg of food produced
  • Captures CO2 emissions in the soil through 'carbon sequestration'
Learn more about organic farming

Home produce

As much of our produce as possible is grown in its natural season in the UK. In 2016, 72% of the veg we sell is British-grown. 100% of our meat is reared in this country.

It’s not our job to tell you what to eat, but we do inform, encourage, and nudge customers towards eating seasonally and locally. For those committed to a truly seasonal, completely homegrown diet, we offer our 100% UK veg box.

Home produce

Local isn’t always best

Burning fossil fuels to heat single glazed glasshouses to 20°C in February is environmentally insane. For every kilo of tomatoes grown in a glass hothouse in the UK, 2-3 kilos of CO2 are released into the atmosphere.

When we can’t grow tomatoes at home without heat, we truck over naturally sun-ripened ones from Spain. This uses just a tenth of the carbon compared with growing them in the UK using heat.

Local isn't always best

How can an ethical company have so many vehicles on the road?

We can’t deliver your veg on a bicycle (we did try).

Lorries are a fact of modern life. Most things you buy have been road freighted at some stage. The HGV industry has become very efficient: it is now common practice to buy high spec, high capacity trucks, and backload them so they rarely travel empty. Trucking of imports only accounts for 6% of our total carbon footprint; for comparison, our cardboard veg boxes account for 10%.

Most studies show that the final step, to customers’ doors, is the most energy-consuming stage of food’s journey, because it’s when loads are smallest. We are no exception to this: at 26% of our total footprint, home deliveries are the single most carbon-costly element of our whole operation. Even so, the University of Exeter found that a delivery from us is significantly more energy efficient than going shopping in your own car.

Learn more about our transportation choices.


Packaging is a necessary evil. It protects the produce, thereby preventing food waste. We can’t do without it entirely, but we have tried to find sustainable solutions. Some of our research confounded initial expectations; for example, a plastic bag has a lower carbon footprint than the equivalent paper one.

Find out more about why we choose our packaging and how you can make sure it gets reused or recycled.

Fighting food waste

Farmers who grow for supermarkets regularly leave a third of their crop behind in the field. Selling direct to the customer means that we can meticulously plan our boxes’ contents a year or more in advance. We grow the amount we expect to need, and that’s it. Few retailers agree, but we think it is better to occasionally run out than to routinely overproduce.

We also have wider and more forgiving specs for fruit and veg compared with supermarkets. On occasions when something simply can’t go out to customers (e.g. if it’s partly damaged), our grade-out system finds a good home for it.

Read more about how we manage food waste.
Veg boxes
Packing carrots

Making Riverford

From growing and packing to delivery.