National Newswatch

More work needed to finish fully developing it.


Ottawa—Walking the talk on producing food sustainably in Canada has taken a big step forward with the release of the National Index on Agri-Food Performance for further development in advance of new global disclosure standards coming next year.

Work on the Index began in 2020 under the leadership of Project Coordinator David McInnes and 129 farm, food and related organizations now are involved in the project. The Index “presents a holistic frame of reference of sustainability priorities, with the goal to help align this diverse sector on reporting, to step-up transparency and to ready Canada’s agri-food supply chains for and to meet other sustainability expectations.”

The Index complements extensive work underway to advance and measure sustainability across Canada’s food system, he said. It consists of 20 indicators that detail about 130 metrics connected to the environment, food integrity including food safety, economic and societal well-being priorities. They include matters relating to the workforce, food security and farm animal care.

“The initiative addresses one of the most pressing issues facing humanity–producing food more sustainably and showing it.” Development of the Index positions Canada as one of the very few nations globally that have developed such a comprehensive sustainability approach to an entire economic sector.

“The global imperative to reduce emissions, address the crisis of climate change and deliver on a breadth of sustainability expectations is redefining what it means to be a leader in today’s agri-food world. This Index can now present the sector’s overall credentials and help distinguish Canada’s trusted food brand globally and back up sustainability claims at home.”

While the Index does not score individual producers or companies, it presents consolidated national results from production to food retail, reporting on positive sustainability performance, areas needing improvement and the data gaps. Such insights are expected to be used inform policy, strategy, and research priorities.

Improving the sustainability measures and benchmarking change over time is also a priority for the partners. The intended next step for the Index, once funding is secured, involves setting up a new Centre for Agri-Food Benchmarking under the umbrella of the Canadian AgriFood Policy Institute (CAPI). The Centre will handle the evolution of the Index and engage with even more stakeholders.

“Compiling the breadth of sustainability measures into one place for the first time is a significant milestone and doing this in lockstep with so many partners is unparalleled”, McInnes said. “An unprecedented private-public coalition has driven this work forward.

“With 129 partners, the coalition has grown in size by some 50 per cent since last year.” Partners include representation from across agri-food supply chains, social, environmental and Indigenous non-governmental organizations, academia, innovation and technology groups, financial institutions, and three levels of government.

The Index broadly aligns with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, other Canadian and global goals, and environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors being advanced in capital markets, McInnes said.

More information on the project is available at

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