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During our TEDx event, we were asked some extremely pertinent questions which our panel were delighted to answer 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.

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

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

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

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.