5.6 Impact Assessment

How can you be sure that your sustainability efforts have a positive impact?

Suppose you have set sustainability criteria, which may or may not be based on external standards, for sourcing from sustainable agriculture and that compliance to these standards has been checked systematically by your own company and, in addition, by external auditors and certifiers. The next questions are: has your sourcing factually contributed to sustainability? More specifically, you must ask yourself questions such as: Has biodiversity profited? Have you contributed to the reduction of GHG emissions? Have farm labourers got better living and working conditions? Are your farmers better-off financially? 

The discussion on the real impacts of implementing sustainability standards, certifying production and supply chains is often triggered by cases in which negative impacts occur despite high standards and stringent certification. Although such cases do not allow for the conclusion that certification on the basis of the sustainability standard does not have positive sustainability impacts, standards and certification systems are increasingly, and not unreasonably, under pressure to prove their positive impact on the ground. 

There are therefore good reasons to undertake systematic assessments of the impacts on the ground of implementing sustainability standards. The impacts cannot be measured on the level of single farmers or single suppliers only. Neither can they be attributed to the supply chains of single companies. As a rule, impact assessments will require cooperation between standard owners, certification systems, private sector companies and governments. 

Some impact assessment tools have been developed by various organisations, which can help your company. These include:

 

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