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24 Feb 2021

An international framework for measuring food and farming sustainability

An international framework for measuring food and farming sustainability
Our aim to establish an internationally Harmonised Farm Sustainability Metric (HFSM) that would facilitate the much-needed transition to more sustainable food and farming systems, giving power to farmers, consumers, governments and businesses to make the right choices. There is currently no common means for assessing the sustainability of food and farming systems across the world. This can make it difficult for farmers to understand how to make incremental improvements, for governments to know which systems of production to incentivise, food companies to source more sustainable products, and for consumers to understand what to buy to be sustainable and healthy. Furthermore, the hidden costs of unsustainable food systems are not included in the price of producing that food, or the price consumers pay. Those who pollute are therefore not held financially accountable for the damage caused. Instead, these costs are passed on to other parts of society or the environment for generations to come. To set international targets for agriculture, monitor progress towards sustainable, regenerative and circular food production and internalise these hidden costs – akin to the financial accounting standards - we need a common approach to measuring impact at farm level (both positive and negative). To do this, we must facilitate the emergence of an internationally harmonised framework of metrics for measuring on-farm sustainability, developed by farmers, experts and key organisations. The framework will provide a common language for farm-level sustainability. It should take an inclusive approach, allowing all farmers to make incremental steps towards becoming more resilient, sustainable and regenerative. It could also be used by governments, food companies, the finance community and, importantly, consumers – to better understand the impact of their food. This way, we can reward those producers who are delivering genuine benefit to the environment and public health and shift the balance of financial advantage towards more sustainable production on a global scale. The Sustainable Food Trust has been consulting with farmers for over 4 years to design the first iteration of a harmonised framework of assessment. The categories are:
  • Soil
  • Water
  • Air and climate
  • Biodiversity
  • Energy and resource use
  • Nutrient management
  • Plant and crop health
  • Animal husbandry
  • Social capital
  • Human capital
  • Productivity
We are now ready to take this to another level and are currently setting up a new sector wide leadership group to further refine the framework and understand how it could be used by key sector groups. Please do get in contact if you would like to get involved.
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