With the “SMART Farm Tool”, farms and other food producers can be analysed and compared with each other.

An ever-increasing number of consumers want sustainable products – this is especially true for food items. But how do you find out whether apples or eggs really come from sustainable production? Can sustainability be measured?

The “SMART Farm Tool” offers the opportunity to examine farms for their sustainability. SMART stands for “Sustainability Monitoring and Assessment Routine”. It is a research methodology that analyses and evaluates the sustainability of farms and food companies. It is based on the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) so-called “SAFA Sustainability Guidelines” (Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture Systems).

The consulting firm Sustainable Food Systems, for example, analysed eight fruit and vegetable producers for Lidl in Switzerland using the “SMART Farm Tool” and drew up a catalogue of measures. The methodology was developed by the Swiss Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL). More than 60 agricultural experts from other research institutions were involved in the process.

Four dimensions of sustainability

SMART examines the four dimensions of sustainability “ecological integrity”, “economic resilience”, “social well-being” and “good corporate governance”. “Ecological integrity” is about how carefully a company treats the atmosphere, water and soil, and to what extent it considers animal welfare. “Economic resilience” means how resistant a farm is to negative external influences: For example, is it investing enough for the future? The criterion “social welfare” deals, among other things, with whether a company has equal rights, whether it pays attention to the safety and health of its employees and whether it complies with labour law. Finally, “good corporate governance” covers aspects such as corporate ethics or holistic management.

A total of 300 criteria are used for evaluation and rated on a five-point scale from red (inadequate) to dark green (maximum sustainability).

The advantage of the SMART system is that it does not just examine individual ecological goals, such as climate protection. Instead, companies are subjected to a holistic analysis that covers all aspects of sustainability. The standardised examination criteria allow the most diverse companies around the globe to be analysed, evaluated and compared with each other.