Benchmarking sustainability farm performance at different levels and for different purposes: elucidating the state of the art

Ine Coteur, Fleur Marchand, Steven Van Passel, Christian Schader, Lies Debruyne, Hilde Wustenberghs

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    Multiple indicators for agroecosystems, sustainable land management, social development, rural livelihoods, biodiversity, etc. were already developed many years ago (Riley, 2001). Nowadays many of those indicators are used in a more holistic way, encompassing several or all of the aspects mentioned. However, this abundancy of frameworks, tools and metrics for agricultural sustainability assessment is still growing (Pope et al., 2013; Schindler, 2015). How does one navigate between benchmarking systems and sustainability assessment tools? What are the key characteristics to describe frameworks, metrics and tools that may facilitate the choice between them? How can one select the most appropriate for one’s purpose?

    Our objective is to provide starting points to answer these questions. We performed a literature review regarding the characteristics proposed to discern metrics and tools. We used state of the art results from the OECD TempAg network, who inventoried integrated sustainability assessment tools and metrics designed for different purposes, to divide existing metrics and tools according to these characteristics focusing on the purpose, level and end-user. This paper first addresses conceptual aspects regarding sustainability assessment. Second, it describes the method used to define the characteristics, the characteristics themselves and third it shows the division of the tools. Our research resulted in a list of 25 characteristics, which were grouped into general assessment related information, information related to stakeholder participation and indicators related information. The division of tools and metrics according to these characteristics raises new questions and starting points for future research and helps us to refine our research questions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages10
    Publication statusPublished - Jul-2016
    Event12th European International Farming Systems Association Symposium: Social and technological transformation of farming systems: Diverging and converging pathways - Harper Adams University, Newport, Shropshire, United Kingdom
    Duration: 12-Jul-201615-Jul-2016


    Symposium12th European International Farming Systems Association Symposium
    Abbreviated title12th European IFSA symposium
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    CityNewport, Shropshire
    Internet address


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