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FAQs

During our TEDx event, we were asked some great questions which our panel answered live (find a recording of the event here). On this page, we look back at some of these questions and share as many answers as possible. We will be updating the page regularly so please get in touch via Twitter and Facebook to ask yours.

How was the Global Farm Metric (GFM) project started?

 

What types of farming does the Global Farm Metric (GFM) seek to promote?

The Sustainable Food Trust’s CEO, Patrick Holden, shares his thoughts.

 

Why do we urgently need the Global Farm Metric?

Farmer David Wilson makes the case for widespread adoption of the Global Farm Metric, noting the benefits for humans, climate change and mass biodiversity loss on farms.

 

How can the Global Farm Metric help farmers?

Farmer David Wilson shares why he’s supporting the Global Farm Metric tool.

How easy is it for farmers to use the Global Farm Metric tool?

Having trialled the Global Farm Metric tool for the last 2 years*, farmer David Wilson shares his experiences of completing the tool and the benefits it can bring.


*The Global Farm Metric tool is yet to be released for general use.

Why do farmers want it?

Time saving 

Currently, farmers fill in multiple audits a year. Up to 60% of the questions are repeated across these audits, meaning farmers have to fill in the same information repeatedly. Widespread adoption of GFM would remove this overlap by providing a common framework for measuring environmental impacts. With auditors requesting the same data, time collecting different information would be reduced and farmers can give permission for data sharing between different players in the supply chain. 

The SFT has developed a simple GFM self-assessment tool which is freely available for any farmer to use. We are also encouraging other auditors and assessment tools to integrate the framework into new or existing platforms to scale up its use.  

Improve environmental and economic resilience 

The GFM enables farmers to monitor their environmental impacts and make more sustainable choices. The indicators of sustainability cover 11 categories (including biodiversity, soil and social capital), making clear which areas are doing well, and which can be strengthened to enhance your local environment and increase resilience. In this way, it acts as a barometer of whole-farm health and allows farmers to make incremental improvements to their land, avoiding the tunnel vision associated with carbon or water focused assessments, for example. 

Not only this, monitoring your impacts and sustainability may help you be prepared for changes to the Basic Payment Scheme. 

It works for all types of farmers 

 

The GFM is inclusive of all farming types and does not push a single agenda, such as organic or regenerative agriculture. The GFM is a framework that farmers can use to effectively monitor the sustainability of their land. What farmers decide to do with that information is their own decision. 

It’s designed by farmers, for farmers 

 

The GFM has been developed for the last 5 years by a vast network of small, medium and large land-managers. At every stage farmers have helped shape the GFM to make sure it meets the needs of their community.  

We have also been working with other stakeholders in the food and farming system, such as supermarkets, retailers, banks, and those in the hospitality industry. By doing so, the GFM can provide a common language that facilitates good communication all along the supply chain. 

But because the GFM been designed with farmers at the heart, the risk of greenwashing associated with retail-led audits is mitigated. Consequently, the GFM framework provides a meaningful and inclusive way to measure on-farm sustainability.  

Will the GFM be able to assess both positive and negative farming practices? 

Yes. The GFM is a framework for farmers and land-managers to use to monitor the positive and negative impacts that affect their business, environment and local community.  

The GFM self-assessment tool asks the farmer to input data for 11 categories of sustainability, each with three indicators. To get an idea of soil health (the category), for example, the GFM asks farmers to measure their soil structure, soil organic matter and biodiversity (the indicators). The average score of the indicators makes up the category score, with the data input scores based on the most up-to-date science and national benchmarks.

Further, because the GFM framework is a comprehensive measure of sustainability, farming practices are not just seen as binary ‘good’ and ‘bad’. The impacts are scored according to their various effects on different categories: while spraying may score more positively on business management, for example, it may not score as highly on biodiversity. There is no negative scoring. This means the GFM can capture the positive impacts a farm is having, as well as those where there is room for improvement. 

* We are entering the second round of trials this summer, after which point, the scoring of the GFM will be refined and shared. Transparency is important to us – we want all farmers to both trust the GFM and understand how certain practices affect their sustainability scoring. 

How does the Global Farm Metric (GFM) help achieve net zero?

While net zero schemes can, on the face of it, help farmers reduce their emissions, it’s often highly damaging to soil health, water quality and biodiversity (good examples of this include the case of maize grown for bioenergy or the use of pesticides to support minimum tillage). Furthermore, in countries with net zero targets like the UK, if net-zero is implemented at a scale that significantly reduces domestic food production, overall emissions could actually increase by driving up imports from parts of the world where agriculture has a relatively greater carbon footprint than the UK. That’s why we believe that net zero – however that is defined – needs to be achieved in a way that also delivers benefits to biodiversity, our water systems, human health, rural communities, and more.

There are many farming practices which can provide multiple environmental and social benefits alongside climate mitigation. But to ensure that these actions are recognised and supported – and are unencumbered with damaging trade-offs – we need to evaluate climate actions through a much more holistic lens than generally happens at present. The GFM measures whole-farm sustainability in a holistic, meaningful and comprehensive way, providing balance to the net zero agenda while still capturing, recording and monitoring carbon sequestration in agriculture. It can therefore help deliver net zero, without compromising on other factors which are also key for planetary and human health.

Is the Global Farm Metric (GFM) just another certification scheme and audit?

In our 2018 report The Case for Convergence a detailed gap analysis reveals the level of commonality between existing farm sustainability and certification schemes. Due to a significant amount of overlap in requested data, the report demonstrates that a substantial opportunity exists for greater harmonisation and simplification of auditing schemes to assist farmers and improve transparency in the marketplace.

Building on this opportunity, the Global Farm Metric (GFM) creates a consistent way to measure the sustainability of food and farming systems across the world. It is not another certification scheme or audit but instead expands on the work of assurance and standard-setting organisations to bring stakeholders together to establish a common framework for measuring on-farm sustainability. From its inception, the GFM has been designed to be compatible and complementary with existing schemes, helping land managers save time and money, as well as make informed decisions about sustainability on their farms.

Can the Global Farm Metric (GFM) accelerate the transition towards more sustainable food systems around the world?

There are several elements of the Global Farm Metric (GFM) which work to accelerate actions to address climate and ecosystem destruction on multiple levels. First and foremost, our aim is to use the GFM to highlight the true costs of different farming systems by measuring whole-farm impacts using 11 categories. This provides land managers with a holistic and accurate view of their sustainability, facilitating more informed decisions about their farming in relation to this and empowering those in agriculture to become a climate change solution – because ‘you can’t manage what you don’t measure’.

Second, use of the GFM in the supply chain would allow the impact of food items to be identified and labelled, helping retailers to choose more sustainable products and citizens to make informed purchasing decisions. As consumers understand more of the social, economic and environmental impacts of their choices, they have the power to support more resilient and regenerative food systems.

From the top-down, the GFM’s creation of a common language in how we understand, measure and communicate sustainability on farms can support meaningful conversations across a range of global stakeholders, from the public and the private sectors to organisations across civil society. This common language can then be used to help set and monitor international sustainability targets for agriculture, inform trade and guide policy decisions, and create greater transparency and accountability in our food and farming systems.

Still have questions about the Global Farm Metric? We will continue to post answers regularly, to share your thoughts and suggest a question, you can contact us via Twitter and Facebook.