The Arlagården® programme has been in place since 2003 and is key for ensuring the high quality that Arla’s dairy products are known for. With the revised programme, Arla’s audit methods and reporting will be fully aligned for all 9,700 farmers owners across seven European countries.
As one of the global leaders in sustainable dairy production, Arla Foods farmer owners are already among the most climate friendly dairy farmers in the world, producing milk with less than half the average of emission per litre compared to global dairy production. The cooperative has also set an ambitious goal to reduce carbon emission by 30 per cent by 2030 and produce carbon net zero dairy by 2050.
“It is vital to our cooperative’s success and reputation that people can maintain their trust in us farmers. We have accelerated our sustainability journey because as an industry we need to do more and we need to do it faster. With the new Arlagården® programme we will provide consumers and customers with more detailed knowledge about the way we produce our milk and treat our cows and how we closely monitor the ongoing development on our farms. At the same time, we give the individual farmer more freedom and flexibility in how he or she chooses to meets our standards,” says Arla Foods chairman Jan Toft Nørgaard.
Audits ensure compliance and trust
Going forward, the revised farm management and quality programme Arlagarden shifts its focus from how farmer owners improve performance on their farms to the results they deliver.
One of the major changes to Arlagården® is that Arla farmers will have to self-assess their farms on a quarterly basis. To help with this new task, farmers have been able to access a knowledge transfer programme to learn how to submit their data before the first deadline on 2nd June. This will create the highest level of data submitted yet, helping farmer owners identify opportunities within their own data and through the shared database.
“The self-assessments will serve as a kind reminder to us farmers to confirm on an ongoing basis that we keep our cows in good health and maintain a high milk quality. At the same time, we as farmers can utilize the database as a source of inspiration for on farm benchmarking and improvements. It will also allow the cooperative to quickly spot if there is a need for further audits and support to help a farmer meet our shared standards,” says Jan Toft Nørgaard.
On top of the self-assessment on farms, there will be three different types of on-farm audits, all conducted by SGS, a leading Swiss inspection, verification, testing and certification company. A basic audits will take place on farms at least every three years, while attention audits will be arranged if the basic audit or the data submitted from the self-assessment indicates irregularities. Finally, randomly selected spot check audits will take place with 48 hours’ notice to the farmer.
“Since Arlagården® was introduced 17 years ago, it has been one of our core strengths and main competitive advantages. But we can’t stand still. We know that consumer expectations for sustainable high quality food production continue to grow, and governments across Europe are looking to the industry to drive positive change. As the Institute for European Environmental Policy report commissioned by Arla demonstrated, partnerships and real solutions that work for farmers, the wider industry and consumers are essential to delivering that sustainable future. This strengthened management programme is an important part of that solution to deliver our shared ambition for sustainable dairy production,” says Jan Toft Nørgaard.
New Arlagarden® is a team effort
Since early 2019, members across Arla’s cooperative have been deeply involved in defining both the new standards and the new audit system. The following improvements have been made to the programme:
Updated standards: All standards have been through a thorough revision to reflect customers’ current requirements regarding milk quality, food safety and animal welfare, but also to increase their focus on sustainability.
A strengthened audit set-up and digital reporting: The new two-fold audit set-up consist of quarterly self-assessments and external audits on farms. In the self-assessments, the farmer confirms the farm’s level of compliance to Arlagården® by digitally submitting answers to 119 questions. The audits will verify the farmer’s data and compliance to the standards.
More flexibility for farmers: Where possible, the standards focus on the results rather than the exact solutions. To a large extent, the individual farmers will therefore be able to find the solutions that suit their farms as long as the results comply fully with Arla’s standards.
More transparency: As Arla’s farmer owners are asked to digitally register their data, both the individual farmer and Arla will have greater transparency of the current compliance and the latest developments. The accumulated knowledge will be valuable to drive improvements and to promote the cooperative in Arla’s dialogue with customers and consumers.
Due to the global corona virus pandemic a pilot test of the new audit setup, that should have taken place in April and May, has been delayed. The new Arlagården® programme and audit system is planned to be fully implemented by 1st August.