This document is a contribution by the organic movement to the global discussion on sustainable agriculture. Its possible uses include:
• Serving as guidelines for improving the ecological, societal, cultural, and economic sustainability of farms and businesses;
• As a basis for setting research and development agendas for improving organic and sustainable farming and related value chains;
• Serving as a benchmark for programs, operations, and sustainability assessment tools for agriculture and its value chains;
• Promoting the development and use of indicators and metrics to assist in an operation’s self-evaluation or external evaluation and transparency;
• Enabling assessments of the regional and global impact of specified sustainability practices;
• Informing and influencing policy agendas of governmental and non-governmental entities;
• Providing a resource for capacity building, education, and raising awareness about sustainability issues.
Sustainable Food Trade Association - United StatesInitiative partner
Sociedad Española de Agricultura Ecologica - SpainInitiative partner
Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation - SwitzerlandInitiative partner
Navdanya - IndiaInitiative partner
Textile Exchange - United StatesInitiative partner
Demeter International - BelgiumInitiative partner
Rainman Landcare Foundation - South AfricaInitiative partner
Rural Advancement Foundation International - United StatesInitiative partner
Louis Bolk Institute - NetherlandsInitiative partner
Research Institute for Organic Agriculture - SwitzerlandInitiative partner
International Centre for Research in Organic Food Systems - DenmarkInitiative partner
SUSTAINABILITY CAN BE EXPRESSED AND DESIGNED AS FIVE complementary and interactive dimensions: social, ecological, economic, cultural and accountability.
There are many possible ways to describe and discuss sustainability. The key is to make sure that all relevant aspects are included in the discussion - otherwise the real objectives of sustainability will not be met. The Best Practice Guideline describes the full set of factors that need to be included in any discussion of sustainability to be considered adequate.
Sustainability is a process and a journey more than an end point. The continuous evolution of society and the planet entails that best practice embodies an attitude of continual improvement. The Guideline sets a bar of performance that should be achieved in some equivalent manner for any entity to be able to consider that it is not undermining or deviating from the journey towards sustainability. Organic practices are the core or base on which sustainability in agriculture must be established.
The Best Practice Guideline works within a global perspective – offering guidelines for performance and progress toward sustainability wherever relevant activities are being undertaken in the world. It recognizes that best practice is specific to context: we thus strive to be aware of, respect, interpret, and share all kinds of best practices as may be implemented by any particular producer or organization. Furthermore, we understand sustainability to be dynamic: what constitutes a holistic approach to best practice evolves over time for any given party.
Thus, this effort convened by IFOAM and its partners in the Sustainable Organic Agriculture Action Network (SOAAN) is meant to be a usable tool regardless of location.
The Best Practice Guideline was ratified by the IFOAM membership on behalf of the global organic movement after two years of rigorous and in-deth stakeholder consultation and collaboration. This initial product of SOAAN is now being used to generate subsequent efforts, through a work plan that includes the following:
- A re-envisioning and roadmap for the content and guarantee methodology for market presence of organic and sustainable products, which enables organic practices to become THE mainstream approach to sustainability;
- Scientifically-based framework/assessments of true cost accounting for production and bringing to market of agricultural goods;
- Science- and empirical-based determination of which practices are most sustainable, with prioritization for improvements and optimization of positive impacts.
The targets of SOAAN's work are:
- farmers and the actors downstream from them through the whole value chain
- government agencies interested in creating action plans for sustainable development
- scientists and researchers
- standards setters and creators of assessment frameworks
SOAAN is well described through the link http://www.ifoam.org/en/sustainable-organic-agriculture-action-network-soaan, and the additionallinks that can be found on that page.
There is broad supoort for IFOAM's and SOAAN's efforts. The greatest obstable is securing enough funding to continue the effort beyind the first phase to build additional tools.
Best Practice in an ecological dimension is defined as follows:
Common resources are those resources that all peoples of the planet need and share for their survival. These include soil, water, air, animals, biodiversity, and mineral resources. The objective is to foster regenerative systems by improving soil quality through increasing nutrient cycling and capture; eliminate dependency on non-renewable resources; avoid pollution and human-induced climate change; respect animal welfare; and enhance the diversity within farms and their surroundings.
Our initiative is still in its realtively early stages of development. Since the ratification of the Guideline, there has been growing support for and interest in its intended uses. The subsequent work plan now being initiated will further expand on the benefits for all stakeholders.
We are on a course of developing innovative and transparent means of communicating and making available the knowledge resources SOAAN has to offer. Linkage with IFOAM's Technology Innovation Platform helps to assure synergy with scientific and research agendas that feed each other dynamically. We are linking with platforms such as the Soil and More Sustainability Flower (see www.soilandmore.com), the Sustainable Food Trade Association reporting framework, existing organic standards/certification schemes, and others to incorporate our content and enable easier access and cross-referencing, thereby unifying the global concept of what sustainability means and hwo ti can be communicated and assessed.