Measuring Sustainability

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The mission

To transition to sustainable food and farming systems, we need to measure our impact. This is why we have been working with the Global Farm Metric Coalition to create a common framework that defines on-farm sustainability and measures whole-farm impacts.

Global Farm Metric creates a common language to align existing frameworks for sustainability, connect food and farming stakeholders around the world and drive positive change.

It is driven by a coalition of over 80 partners, including farmers, consultants, farming and environment groups, educators, certifiers, food companies, financial services and government.

The challenge

We stand at a critical moment in history for food and farming. During the last century, our extractive farming practices have depleted nature and brought us to the brink of a planetary emergency, with climate change, catastrophic biodiversity decline and a crisis for public health.

With half of our land now used for agriculture, farmers across the globe have become the primary stewards of nature, climate and health. Yet their delivery of public goods depends on redesigning our businesses and industries away from systems based on extraction and growth and towards approaches based on the principles of regeneration, sustainability and the circular economy.

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At the moment, there is no common way to define or measure the sustainability of food and farming systems across the world. Current farm-level data collection is often narrow, limiting our ability to identify unintended consequences that might be happening elsewhere in the system. This makes it hard for farmers and land-managers to understand the sustainability of their current systems and what they can do to improve.

Consequently, the true cost to nature, climate and health, remain hidden and displaced. This makes it difficult for governments to know which food production systems to support, food companies to know which producers to source from and consumers to understand what the most sustainable and healthy options are.

We believe this is a critical barrier slowing the transition towards sustainable food and farming systems.

The solution

To address these challenges and take meaningful steps towards healing people and the planet, we must create a common language to measure the sustainability of food and farming systems.

The Global Farm Metric framework provides a roadmap to sustainability and defines a common set of indicators for data collection on key areas of impact. Like the financial accounting standards, this creates a common language to be embedded within existing data collection, assessment and farm management systems. For more specialist applications, additional data will still be required. For example, a carbon calculator may need more information on sources of emissions and sequestration to evidence carbon net gain and access new markets.

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This common framework measures whole-farm impacts in a way that is meaningful, inclusive and developed by farmers. Looking at social, economic and environmental sustainability, the Global Farm Metric is outcomes based and practical to collect, enabling farmers to identify areas for improvement, initiate further investigation and support decision making. All farmers can then begin to understand their impacts and take steps towards becoming more resilient, sustainable, regenerative and ultimately a climate change solution.

The future

This global measure of sustainability enables farmers to understand, measure and report on their whole-farm impacts in a consistent way; governments to assess, monitor and support the delivery of public goods, evidenced-based policy and progress towards sustainability goals; financial services to invest in and support more sustainable farming; the food industry to source more sustainably and amplify transparency; and the public to make more informed choices.

This way, we can reward producers who are delivering genuine benefit to the environment and public health and subsequently shift the balance of financial advantage towards more sustainable production on a global scale.

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The Sustainable Food Trust has been consulting with farmers for over six years to design the first iteration of a Global Farm Metric. We are now a coalition of over 80 food and farming stakeholders. Together, we are working to develop, support and drive the mission for a global language and framework for sustainability. The next iteration of the framework will be released in 2023.

 

Read our report on how a common framework for whole-farm sustainability can drive change.

You can also head to the Global Farm Metric website and sign up to regular project updates below:




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