Evidenced based and evolving, the Global Farm Metric framework is co-designed and tested by farmers and researchers.
Over the past seven years, desk and field research have built a body of evidence to develop the framework and demonstrate value to farmers and the wider food and farming system. Coordinated from the UK, development and farm trials have been taking place globally, including the US, Malawi and Australia.
In January 2023, the GFM released the latest iteration of the framework which has been updated to improve clarity, robustness and usefulness, both as a framework to measure the state of the farming system and as a learning resource. It will continue to be tested and refined through research, trials and stakeholder consultation.
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.
The framework establishes a common language to align existing metrics, including farm assessments, audits, certification schemes and management tools, around a holistic view of farm-level sustainability. 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 outcomes across different farming systems, as well as its ability to drive positive change from the ground up.
In the UK, the Global Farm Metric framework has been tested using our research tool, including pilots with Red Tractor, Morrisons, NatWest Group and Natoora. We continue to work with Defra, Scottish and Welsh Government on the need for a common framework to inform future farm support.
We have also 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 United States.
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 Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy as a key solution for future policy (p.69).
For financing the transition towards more sustainable systems, we must have a common baseline of data.
This 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 the NatWest Group. In 2023, the Global Farm Metric, a common framework to measure the state of farming systems globally, is being used to develop a digital data collection and assessment platform that hopes to will play a crucial role in measuring and sharing the sustainability of farming and food production. Through a partnership between the Sustainable Food Trust and NatWest Group – Anthesis, the world’s largest group of dedicated sustainability experts have been chosen to develop this platform, bringing their expertise and technology offerings into the partnership.
As well as driving the mission of a common language, the ambition is to improve outcomes on farm and 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 & 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 can align food labelling and raise 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. 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.