86 organizations are partner in the food sustainability Index development.
Ottawa—After months of work and backed by a coalition of 86 partners, a proposed national sustainability Index for Canadian agriculture and food products has been developed to inform consumers on the sector’s environmental performance and the safety of its products.
The Index would report on a consolidated national basis, not on individual farms or companies, says David McInnes, the Coordinator of the National Index on Agri-Food Performance. The proposed Index is based on environment, food integrity, economic and societal well-being sustainability blocks.
They would show the sector’s progress to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other environmental metrics as well as report on the safety of Canadian food, food security, labour priorities, and other sustainability-related priorities.
“Backing up Canada’s trusted food brand is paramount and can become a marketplace advantage,” McInnes said. “Ultimately, the Index is about giving confidence to people here and abroad about the actions being taken in Canada to advance sustainability.”
Since work on the Index started last fall, about 20 indicators and 50 sub-indicators have been developed with the aim of broadly aligning Canada with key U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and investor-driven environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors. “Momentum is accelerating to advance this work with the coalition nearly doubling in size in the last several months.”
The partners include agriculture and food associations, companies, social, environmental and Indigenous NGOs, academia, innovation and technology organizations, financial institutions, federal and provincial governments, and municipal initiatives, among others, McInnes said. Canadian academics and several global organizations have reviewed the work along with a governance roadmap that outlines the steps needed to be more inclusive, transparent and credible as the Index evolves.
The report also describes the methods to be used to broaden data collection, which could enhance future reporting, he said. Ultimately, the Index would include all forms of food production, fisheries, animal feed, and sector-generated fibre and biofuel.
The Index proposes detailed criteria to report on environmental, social and economic sustainability. Doing so could enable greater consumer trust at home and market access abroad. But better data is needed to be credible and fulfill this potential.
Getting the Index right could help back up Canada’s trusted food brand and become a marketplace advantage, he said. One vital step is to show the agrifood sector’s progress to mitigate GHG emissions and substantively help meet Canada’s climate targets.
The partners agreed good governance is needed to be credible and they developed a roadmap to ensure that the Index’s governance retains the confidence of domestic and global stakeholders. Going forward, a more formalized structure can enable wider stakeholder input and participation.
The next step for this project is the development of a focused pilot based on available and suitable data, which is expected to be launched in early 2023 to test the Index, refine its approach and broaden support for it. Long-term funding is needed to ensure that the Index can evolve and remain relevant, credible and useful.
More information on the Index is available at www.agrifoodindex.ca