Global Farm Metric

The Global Farm Metric uses a single set of categories, indicators and measures to assess the whole-farm sustainability of all farming systems and landscapes.

When adopted, it will align existing assessments to establish a common baseline of data and drive positive change across the food and farming sector.

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The challenge

Over half of our habitable land is now farmed to feed a global food production system and supply chain. What happens on these farms will determine our future health, biodiversity and climate.

However, there are barriers that prevent farmers becoming a driver of positive change.

In particular, there is no common way to measure the impact of agriculture and land-use from a whole farm perspective. Without a consistent framework to measure impact, farmers do not have the data they need to identify areas for improvement. This has hindered the creation of a common language that can give farmers, government, the public, food companies and the financial sector access to a reliable baseline of on-farm data.

A unique opportunity exists to harness the power of farming and land use to address the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and declining public health through the introduction of a common metric to measure the impact of agriculture. With the transparency of a common language and single set of measures to connect all parts of the food system  we can empower farmers, consumers, governments, the financial community, food businesses and retailers to drive this much-needed transition to planet friendly farming.

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The solution

The Global Farm Metric is a framework to assess whole-farm sustainability and create a common baseline of data by aligning existing assessments. It can be applied to all farming systems to enable positive change across the food and farming sector .

The categories provide an overview of the farm’s sustainability, so none are considered in isolation and farmers are better equipped to mitigate negative impacts. Created and tested by farmers by a process of convergence, it is practical and feasible to use.

It is outcomes based, extending the scope of assessment beyond farming methods alone to more accurately identify environmental, social and economic outcomes.

Real progress towards positive change can then be benchmarked and monitored against sustainable development goals at a local, national and international scale. Crucially, the Global Farm Metric maps onto the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is relevant to and supportive of 16 of the 17 SDGs, and 94 of the 169 SDG targets.

This collective action can drive positive change to accelerate the transition towards more sustainable food and farming systems.

Achieving our climate goals is dependent on everyone being able to do better.

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Explore the Global Farm Metric categories

Key features

The GFM isn’t another certification, audit or assurance scheme. It is a common framework to be integrated into existing schemes, specialist tools and impact reporting.

By doing so, it will align existing frameworks and connects all food and farming stakeholders around the world to create a common baseline of data.

Key features of the GFM

Whole-farm

Measures environmental, social and economic impacts

Common language

A baseline of data for all food and farming stakeholders

Inclusive

Applicable to all farming systems and landscapes. Compatible with other frameworks

Practical

Developed by farmers, for farmers

Evidence & outcomes based

Grounded in data & built on scientific evidence

Independent

Enables transparency and accountability

Drives change

Enables collective action for nature, climate and health

Driving change

The Global Farm Metric drives positive action using more than knowledge alone. It enables shared understanding, a supporting policy and economic environment, public awareness, and consumer demand.

Farmers

For farmers to be a driver of positive change, they must be rewarded for improving their sustainability.

By providing a whole-farm framework to understand, monitor and reduce impacts, farmers can evidence and improve the production of nutritious food, growth of natural capital and delivery of public goods.

This data can be used to support consistent sourcing and investment by the financial industry and food businesses, as well as establish a baseline of data to inform direct payment schemes.

Government and policy

For farming to be part of the solution, governments must create an enabling policy environment and monitor progress at farm level.

A baseline of on-farm data can be aggregated to track change at a local, national and international scale.

This can provide information to monitor progress towards sustainability goals and provide data for evidence-based agriculture and trade policy.

The Global Farm Metric maps onto the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is relevant to and supportive of 16 of the 17 SDGs, and 94 of the 169 SDG targets.

The GFM thus enables governments and the market to reward producers who are delivering genuine benefit to the environment and public health, shifting the balance of financial advantage towards more sustainable production.

Food business

For food businesses to support producers who are making positive progress towards reducing their impacts, they need comparable and comprehensive information.

The GFM enables food businesses to assess the sustainability of their products across social, economic and environmental indicators by establishing a baseline of consistent information.

As well as streamlining internal reporting, this can create a positive market incentive that rewards more sustainable farming.

Further, by contributing to the pool of on-farm data, the GFM can enable innovation and the development of appropriate technology and practices for more sustainable farming and land use, as well as a common framework of measurement for agri-tech companies.

Finance industry

For financial service providers to be better equipped to support food businesses and farmers, they need access to consistent and reliable information.

By establishing a baseline of whole-farm data that can be used to assess the impacts of farming businesses in a common way, the GFM enables targeted lending, impact investment and ESG reporting.

This helps to create a supportive economic environment that rewards farmers who are actively reducing their environmental, social and economic impacts.

Citizens

For citizens to mobilise consumer power, we need consistent and comparable information.

A common language enables transparency and accountability across the supply chain. It can be used on food labelling to inform consumer choice by raising awareness of whole-farm sustainability.

Frequently asked questions

Still have questions? You can contact us via info@globalfarmmetric.org or @GFMColition on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Why do we need to accelerate the transition towards more sustainable agriculture?

Our climate is in crisis. Our planet could soon be unlivable if we do not act now. All industries must look at their impact, and agriculture is no exception. Our current industrial farming models are contributing in a very significant way to escalating climate change – this must be addressed.

But farming is also unique. Not only can it protect biodiversity and support health and wellbeing, it can remove carbon from the atmosphere and become perhaps the biggest nature-based solution to climate change. In order to empower farmers to become the agent for this change, they must have the information they need to manage this transition, a common understanding of the impact they are having over time, and a strong business case for change.

What does the GFM look like in practice?

The GFM is based on 11 categories of sustainability. Each category contains three key indicators that identify the main areas where impact occurs and sustainable practices can be implemented. Every indicator is practical and feasible to measure on-farm. At the end of each assessment, farmers are presented with a list of outcomes based on their data and a ‘radar’ diagram showing them their score in each area of sustainability.

The framework is to be embedded into existing sustainability assessments, audits and reporting systems so we can begin to measure impacts in a consistent way and create a robust baseline of on-farm data. It will also have its own online application that is open-source and free to farmers.

Is it just another certification, audit, or assurance scheme?

The GFM, is not a new farm management tool, certification scheme, or binary audit. It is a common framework which can be integrated into existing schemes, specialist tools (including those used by farm advisors) and reporting systems that measure on-farm impacts. By doing so, it connects all stakeholders involved in food and farming and aligns new existing frameworks around the world to create a common baseline of data.

Who can use it?

As a primary goal, the GFM can be used by farmers to give them the information they need to make informed decisions about the sustainability of their land management system, and from this make steps toward continuous improvement.

However, it can also be used by governments to design future public support schemes and set standards within international trade agreements; food companies to aid supply chain transparency; the finance community as a basis for sustainable investment and consumers to make informed choices about the relative sustainability of food products they purchase.

Why is the GFM a coalition?

The GFM Coalition is a group representing farmers, government, finance, retailers, certifiers, NGO’s and philanthropy – all working together to develop the GFM and drive adoption.

Delivering the GFM is not only about defining a framework to measure on-farm sustainability, it is about ensuring all stakeholders use the same standardised single set of measures to assess impact.

The priority therefore has been to work with a broad set of stakeholders, all of whom are looking for their own answers on sustainability, and to unite them through this standardised approach to measurement. Each of our coalition partners have signed up to this, understanding that the GFM is an independent, transparent and robust system of data collection, and bring with them the potential for adoption across their supply chains and networks.

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

While net zero schemes can help farmers reduce their emissions, The pursuit of a single outcome in isolation, such as carbon reduction or biodiversity gain, can come at a cost to other parts of the system. 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.

The GFM measures whole-farm sustainability in a holistic way, providing balance to the net zero agenda while still capturing, recording and monitoring emissions and sequestration in agriculture. It can therefore help deliver net zero, without compromising on other factors which are also key for planetary and human health.