Skip to main content

UKSAW22 logo
UK Soils Awareness Week 2023

A manifesto for soil?

Putting soils at the heart of the environment agenda at the General Election 

9-15 October 2023
#UKSAW     #UKSAW2023     #SoilHealth     #SoilManifesto

With a General Election on the horizon, this year’s UK Soils Awareness week will focus on the role that government must play in protecting and enhancing the nation’s soils. At its heart lies a Call To Action – eight clear asks that the organisations behind UKSoils believe must be incorporated into the farming and environment policy and manifesto development of the major parties.

The Call to Action reflects the most basic steps needed to protect and improve our soils – pragmatic, proportionate and targeted to the areas where government leadership can have the greatest impact - regulations, incentives, guidance and research.

During the Week (9-15 October), which coincides with the Labour Party Conference, UKSoils and partner organisations will promote the Asks, invite all stakeholders to comment on them, and add their own.

Co-Executive Director of the Sustainable Soils Alliance, a Founding Member of UKSoils, Ellen Fay, explained the thinking behind the Call to Action:

“We can already see the environmental issues that will dominate debates in the run-up to the next election - Net Zero, pollution-free rivers, nature restoration and resilient domestic food production. Healthy soils are the key to delivering all of these objectives – indeed no other aspect of our environment has such widespread significance. Because soils are also vital for profitable farming, affordable food and vibrant rural economies, they have a positive impact upon the cost of living crisis too.

“Soil will provide a useful barometer on how committed the various parties are to environmental action. We need novel and robust policies and targets capable of delivering genuine change for soil and all of the environment.”

The Call to Action reflects the priorities shared with MPs during this year’s Parliamentary Inquiry on Soil Health, and those of other experts that contributed. It also reflects the feedback from last year’s inaugural Soil Awareness Week - and the strength of feeling around soils that it revealed.

Co-Executive Director of the Sustainable Soils Alliance, Matthew Orman said:

“Last year’s awareness week demonstrated widespread public interest in – and concern about the state of our soils. They are now understood to sit alongside air, water and biodiversity in the public consciousness as pillars of our environmental health. 

“This enthusiasm for soils comes with a high degree of expectation, however, and voters will now look to the major parties to demonstrate that they understand the threats facing our soils, and are committed to addressing them. This call to action is both a roadmap and a checklist against which prospective governments can be held to account."

Join us for a week of action and advocacy. Together, we can ensure a sustainable future for our soils  #UKSAW2023 #SoilHealth #SoilManifesto

Our Call to Action

Text of our Call to Action:

UK Soils: A Call to Action

Soils are the foundation of both our food system and the natural environment. They are the source of over 95% of the food we eat, store more water than our rivers, more carbon than the atmosphere and are home to a quarter of all life on earth.

Our soils are under threat. 2.9 million tonnes of soil in England and Wales are lost to erosion every year . The annual costs of flooding, water pollution and carbon loss caused by degraded soils is in the billions.

Throughout the party conference season and in the runup to the General Election, we call on all political parties to place soils at the heart of their environment and farming manifestos by committing to the following:

  1. A coherent, ambitious strategy for nationwide soil protection and improvement that reflects their importance and value to society
  2. Clear strategic targets, across all land types and uses, against which soil health can be measured, enhanced and maintained
  3. A robust, soils-focused regulatory framework underpinned by a commitment to long-term enforcement and communication
  4. A systematic monitoring programme at different scales, which identifies soil health changes over time, to inform future approaches to sustainable soil management, locally, nationally and internationally
  5. Proportionate economic incentives for farmers and land managers, to invest in soil management that reflect both the cost of implementation and the services soils provide
  6. Rigorous standards for ecosystem markets that will generate tangible, permanent environmental benefits and a fair income for land managers
  7. An independent outreach and engagement advisory service able to support land managers in implementing sustainable soil management activities
  8. A UK-wide, strategic programme of research and investment in soils to understand and mitigate the threats soils face, integrated with land managers and policy makers to ensure our most up-to-date evidence is integrated into both policy and practice.

As well as our Call to Action, UK Soils Awareness features a guide to key soil terminology and tips on how to maintain healthy soils.