afse-logo-icon afse-logo-text

How it Works

What is sustainability?

Sustainability in general is founded on the following three pillars:

Farms need to be financially viable to be sustainable.

The Canadian cropping sector is an important driver for Canada’s economy. From coast to coast, farmers are vital to the economic health of their communities and to Canada’s agriculture and agri-food industry. This contribution to the Canadian economy depends on farmers being financially viable in the long run, which relies on continuous improvement of sound management practices.

Canadian farmers are environmental stewards of their land. Many of their sound and responsible agronomic practices contribute to improving soil health, water and air quality, and biodiversity, and reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, etc.

Farmers have long understood that a healthy environment is necessary for farming to continue for future generations. As environmental stewards, farmers contribute in many ways including, responsible use of agrochemicals, adopting new efficient technologies, responsibly managing land uses and fostering biodiversity. Along with all members of society, farmers must also strive to reduce waste and pollution to reduce their impact on the environment.

As employers and rural citizens, farmers have a direct influence on the well-being of their families, neighbours, employees, contractors and communities.

Producing safe food in an environmentally sustainable and economically viable way requires committed workers to support Canada’s many farm operations. Protecting the basic labour rights of farm workers, supporting people’s health and well-being, providing competitive working conditions, and fostering harmonious business relationships within their communities are increasingly important for maintaining public trust in the agriculture sector.

Why does sustainability matter?

Sustainability means more than a label on food packaging. Sustainability standards reflect many on farm beneficial management practices (BMPs) that improve land stewardship, provide a safe work environment and maintain a healthy bottom line. Canadian farmers continue to look for ways to improve their operations and their land because they depend on it for their livelihood.

Many of the BMPs employed on farms such as, record keeping, nutrient management and agrochemical handling and application, not only increase production efficiency, yields, soil health and water quality, but they improve worker safety and profitability. The Farm Sustainability Readiness Tool will prioritize these same areas when developing grower extension and educational resources to ensure Canadian farmers see value.

Are you ready?

Agricultural commodities are experiencing different stages of market pressure to be certified as sustainable. For example, the potato industry is a leader in sustainability and their growers had to adapt to sell their product and maintain their contracts. The signals to growers of small grains and oilseeds are weak today, but they are strengthening and momentum is building. In the future, sustainability verification will play a significant role in the cropping sector’s ability to maintain market access and public trust. The goal of this tool is to increase farmers’ readiness to take advantage of these sustainability-driven market signals.

This tool removes the guess work for farmers by compiling questions in a user-friendly format for three of the most comprehensive, internationally recognized, sustainability certification programs. These are FSA (2.0), ISCC 202 (V3.0), and ULSAC (2017). If farmers are certified sustainable according to these standards, then they should comply with any other sustainability program that may enter the Canadian marketplace. The Farm Sustainability Readiness Tool is targeted at early adopters to increase their comfort with sustainability certification should they choose to pursue this on their farms.


Goal and Scope of the Tool

The objective of this project is to develop an online self-assessment and action plan to support farmers in their preparedness to meet the requirements of various sustainability programs.

The tool provides:

1) Three self-assessment questionnaires that enable individual farmers to assess their situation against internationally recognized sustainability certification programs;

2) Learning and action-planning modules to support farmers in bridging the potential gap between their current practices and the requirements of these sustainability certification programs;

3) General information on sustainability and the impacts for farmers who expand their understanding of sustainable practices and drivers of sustainable sourcing.

The tool focuses on three internationally recognized sustainability certification programs, namely the:

• International Sustainability and Carbon Certification EU – ISCC 202 Sustainability requirements version 3.0 source

• Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform – Farmer Self-Assessment (FSA) version 2.0 source

• Unilever’s Sustainable Agriculture Code (ULSAC) – 2017 Version source

Contacts were made with program owners to inform them of the project and access the newest versions of their programs. The requirements of these programs are listed and sorted into a framework. The framework of the tool includes 3 modules, 17 topics and 84 indicators. Each indicator covers at least one requirement from the sustainability programs.

This tool is not meant to replace any of these internationally recognized sustainability programs. Similarly, it cannot be used as a substitute for an audit process or to infer compliance with the three sustainability programs.