Evidenced based and evolving, the Global Farm Metric framework is verified by researchers and farmers so that data collection is both practical and useful.
Over the past 6 years, we have been conducting desk and field research to review and refine the framework. Coordinated from the UK, development and farm trials have been taking place globally, including the US, Malawi and Australia.
We have now achieved consensus on the categories and sub-categories of the framework via consultation with the Global Farm Metric Coalition, including key experts from academia and practitioners from a wide range of organisations. The indicator level is currently being developed and refined globally.
- In the UK, this is being done via scientific literature review and Delphi process, which will take place at Reading University this July. Results will be published by the end of 2022 and will be tested via farm trials in 2023.
- In the US, the Organic Association of Kentucky have adapted the Global Farm Metric framework for trial later this year.
- In Australia, we have been working to develop farm use cases on Australian farms.
- In south-eastern Africa, with funding from Women Forward International, the Cornell University team have started to adapt the Global Farm Metric for smallholder farmers in Malawi, with particular focus on social, human and soil categories.
For farmers to be a driver of positive change, they must have a shared understanding of sustainability.
Farmers are at the heart of the Global Farm Metric. A common framework enables consistent monitoring and reporting of impacts so farmers can evidence and improve the production of nutritious food, growth of natural capital and delivery of public goods.
It is designed to be embedded into farm assessments, audits, certification schemes and management tools. Through stakeholder adoption, we are working towards reducing the duplication of data collection and confusion around conflicting information on sustainability.
We have been testing the framework’s ability to capture and communicate impacts holistically, as well as improve environmental, social and economic outcomes.
In the UK, we have tested the Global Farm Metric framework using our research tool, including pilots with Red Tractor, Morrisons, NatWest Group and Natoora. We continue to work with Defra, Scottish and Welsh Government to embed the need for a common framework to inform future farm support. Trials are ongoing and results will be published towards the end of 2022.
We have been working with teams of researchers to trial the framework in Australia and India, with smallholders in Northern Malawi, as well as with large farmland owners in the Southern States of the United States. The trials involve testing the framework’s applicability to a range of farming systems and landscapes.
Government & Policy
For farming to be part of the solution to climate change, biodiversity loss and declining public health, governments must create an enabling policy environment and monitor progress at farm level.
We have been working to establish a baseline of farm level data that can be aggregated to track change at a local, national and international scale, monitoring progress towards sustainability goals and providing data for evidence-based agriculture and trade policy.
In the UK, between 2018-2020 we undertook a phase 1 Environmental Land Management (ELM) trial to test the concept of an annual sustainability assessment based on the Global Farm Metric framework as a key pillar of Defra’s ELM scheme. We continue to work on two Defra trials to embed the need for a common framework to structure future farm support, more details of which will be released at the end of this year.
As a result of ongoing engagement with senior policy officials and close cooperation with the devolved Governments, the Welsh Government has committed to introduce an annual sustainability assessment, based on the Global Farm Metric, into their Sustainable Farming Scheme. We are also in conversation with the Scottish Government, and the Global Farm Metric has now been included in Henry Dimbeby’s National Food Strategy as a key solution for future policy (p69).
For financing the transition towards more sustainable systems, we must have a common baseline of data.
These data can be used as a basis for farm support payments, provide access to new markets and support consistent and sustainable investment by the finance and food industries.
In the UK, adoption of the Global Farm Metric framework by the finance industry is being spearheaded by NatWest Group. As well as driving the mission of a common language, NatWest Group are creating a platform that embeds the Global Farm Metric framework and enables farmers to measure and improve their environmental, economic and social impacts. The ambition is to enable the bank to better understand the impact of its agriculture portfolio, as well as providing customers in the sector with individual support on their climate journey. NatWest Group successfully piloted early versions of the framework, developed so far by the Sustainable Food Trust and researchers from the Royal Agricultural University.
Food business and support services
For food businesses and support services to identify and invest in more sustainable produce, holistic data must be collected at farm-level consistently.
A common language enables transparency and accountability across the supply chain. It aligns food labelling and raises awareness of whole-farm sustainability, allowing stakeholders to understand and manage the risks they face more effectively and have the information they need to make more sustainable choices.
We support a healthy diversity of tools and platforms that enable more sustainable food and farming, including the emerging carbon and natural capital markets. We are working with leading service providers to align the Global Farm Metric with other data collection and reporting mechanisms to reduce market distortions and confusion.
Through the Coalition, we are testing the business case for a common framework and aligning the Global Farm Metric with existing schemes and initiatives. Partners include food wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers, input suppliers and organisations providing technical advisory services, certification and assurance schemes.
By working together to develop a single framework for measuring and reporting on a common set of sustainability metrics, we are enabling a greater understanding of the challenges we face and the progress we are making. By establishing a baseline of consistent and comparable information, we are enabling the transition to more sustainable food and farming globally.