You should hold those around you accountable for their behaviour as you move towards making only values-based choices for your farming business, writes Julia Jones.

When choosing those who supply services or products to you or those to whom you supply your incredible produce, don't focus on price – focus on picking those who best match your values.

Farming is shifting and evolving so fast, and every day you are working hard to make sure that your business is good for the environment, your family, your profitability, your health and your community.

It's important, however, that you also drive your ecosystem to do the same.

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To progress the food and fibre industry as much as we need to in the areas of environment, social and governance, we must make sure that we have a whole-system approach.

Read more: Julia Jones on helping farmers 'stand tall again'

A whole-system approach means that everyone in the value chain – from the farmer and their service providers, to the processor, through to the marketing, through to the plate – should be thinking about environment, social and governance behaviour, and not just thinking it but doing it.

As farmers you have more influence in driving this whole-system approach than you think.

The most important thing you can do is make decisions about all those around you based upon the values on which you want to base your business – not just price.

Ask questions

So what does this mean? Make sure you hold those who surround your farming business to account for their behaviour.

If you have contractors, consultants, livestock transport companies and equipment suppliers coming to your gates, make sure they can supply you with their health and safety policy, that they treat their staff well and are investing in the environment and doing what is right.

This includes ensuring you monitor animal treatment by livestock transport companies.

They should respect and treat your animals with incredible care, even when they leave your gates.

Don't be afraid to ask for evidence of claims they make; ask them what their sustainability policy is, and whether they are using sustainable packaging reducing waste where possible.

Are they paying their staff a living wage? What are they doing to evolve for the future?

This isn't just about the physical services, it applies to those supplying business services: your accountants, bankers, lawyers etc –anyone around your business should be able to describe their purpose and values to you so you are empowered to make the right choices.

Consider alternatives

When you hear rumours or you know they are not doing the right things, find someone else to provide that service, or at very least challenge them on their behaviour – not in an aggressive way but in a way that outlines what you are prepared to accept or not accept when it comes to behaviour on your farm and in the community.

These principles also apply to those to whom your supply your produce; if they are processing then you should expect that they are putting as much energy into water use, pollution prevention, reducing waste, care with staff, animal care (where applicable) as you are.

Change isn't different, but the pace of it is far greater than before.

Many farmers are moving at pace, so it's not unreasonable to push others to ensure a whole-system approach – and part of this will be not tolerating those who may slow us down.

In the words of US motivational speaker Les Brown: "Do what is easy and your life will be hard; do what is hard and make your life easy".

- Julia Jones is Head of Analytics at NZX and a former KPMG Farm Enterprise Specialist.