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Complementing existing value chain sustainability assessments: Measuring, communicating, and valuing biodiversity in food systems [CORE]

  • Published on March 23, 2017

This core initiative aims to improve measures, standards, and valuation methods for agricultural, fishery and wild biodiversity as well as identify how these can be adapted to measure impacts at the landscape level. Furthermore the initiative aims to motivate companies, developers of standards and other actors to use those tools and methods in order to increase the biodiversity performance of the food sector.

Biodiversity loss is one of the principal global challenges in pursuit of the sustainable development goals, in particular SDG 14 & 15. Food systems, and in particular agricultural production and fishing, are key drivers for terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity loss. Addressing this challenge requires sound metric systems to monitor ongoing loss of biodiversity and success of conservation measures. Yet there is currently no consensus on generally accepted, reliable, and actionable biodiversity assessment methods. Such methods (or system of methods) should be used alongside more established environmental indicators, for instance for greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, communicating on biodiversity is more challenging due to its intrinsic complexity and the lack of common units, such as CO2-eq for carbon footprint. Furthermore, biodiversity needs to be assessed across multiple levels to yield meaningful results – this includes the landscape level for which current tools and methods are insufficient or lack compatibility.

WORKSTREAM 1: Different approaches are proposed to measure biodiversity, yet there are currently no broadly accepted, actionable consensus indicators available. Therefore, several methods and tools to evaluate biodiversity are to be compared, assessed, refined, and databases for their application to be developed. Recommendations will be made to facilitate application of such methods.

WORKSTREAM 2: Tested and approved methods to value impacts and dependencies of food production on biodiversity and ecosystem services, with emphasis on the farm and the landscape levels, based on the Natural Capital Protocol and by complementing and adapting existing life cycle inventory databases to convey information and data on True Cost (CURRENTLY ON HOLD).

WORKSTREAM 3: Biodiversity performance of standards and certified farms will be improved by a.) Guidance on biodiversity criteria in standards and labels of the food sector, b.) Biodiversity Performance tool to support the implementation and evaluation of biodiversity measures on farm level and c.) training modules to improve the knowledge of assessors, verifiers, farmers and product manager d) a system (database) to monitor the conservation impacts of food standards. A sector initiative “Biodiversity Performance in the Food Sector” will be created to continue the further development of instruments and to motivate the food sector to use them.

WORKSTREAM 4: Farming for biodiversity: Farming for Biodiversity aims at identifying local solutions for biodiversity, and bring them to scale and global application Workstream 1 of the Core Initiative has developed a Technical Report on Biodiversity Assessment Methods. The report compares different biodiversity assessment methods, used in different contexts / for different purposes. The technical report is complemented by a “Guide for Decision Makers”, which summarizes the technical report for non-expert decision makers, and enables businesses and governments to identify a biodiversity assessment method that works best in their context. We have also developed an inventory of case studies that illustrate the application of the biodiversity assessment methods described in the report & guide. All documents can be accessed at Workstream 3 of the Core Initiative has published a Baseline Report that summarizing the results of a screening of 54 regional, national, European and international standards for the food sector and requirements of food companies for their supply chains. This report has been used as input for the “Recommendations to improve biodiversity protection in policy and criteria of food standards and sourcing requirements of food companies and retailers”.

The Draft Version of the Biodiversity Performance Tool is currently being reviewed and tested by an expert group of the project partners of the EU LIFE project on Food & Biodiversity. It will be available end of 2018.


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