Output Tool Technical Report 2
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New Zealand’s monitoring frameworks for agricultural sustainability and assurance

August 2021

This report looks at some industry sustainability assurance and monitoring schemes – including organic certification, Sustainable Wine NZ, and New Zealand Good Agricultural Practice – to highlight the diverse range of approaches taken and how this could inform any certification or assurance system for regenerative agriculture. (The schemes considered are not exhaustive but represent different types of frameworks across different sectors.)

The report assesses these frameworks using two global schemes: SAFA (which assesses what aspects of sustainability are measured), and ISEAL Alliance (which assesses how they are measured).

The report finds a wide range of variation in the issues covered, their rigour, reliability, independence, and transparency. There are also different general approaches: input vs outcomes-based frameworks; and fixed benchmark vs continual improvement frameworks. There are pros and cons to these different approaches.

‚ÄúThis high-level review clearly shows that, compared with SAFA, no current sustainability assessment framework is comprehensive. All omit some themes, and some omit entire dimensions,’ says report author Dr Charles Merfield of the BHU Future Farming Centre at Lincoln University.’Different primary sectors in Aotearoa New Zealand have taken highly contrasting approaches to their sustainability standards. This could be overwhelming for consumers to understand and even prove a challenge for those in the food distribution and retail systems,’ says Dr Merfield.

To be relevant, research seeking to test or quantify outcomes for regenerative agriculture should contribute to industry-led outcome verification initiatives.

The overall aim of this report is to provide the reader with a general understanding of agricultural sustainability frameworks, using examples from Aotearoa New Zealand. This is in the context of the current interest in Regenerative Agriculture (RA) in NZ and discussions within RA about the need, or lack of need, to develop systems to prove the provenance of regenerative farm products and a framework to describe what regenerative practices involve. The report makes no attempt to be a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the different systems, as this would require orders of magnitude greater resources than were available and also access to non-public information.

Contract Report: LC3954-7

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Projects which produced this output

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