Canada's National Index on Agri-Food Performance focused on setting baseline for sustainability

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Eighty-six partners from different sectors across Canada have come together with a singular focus: to set a benchmark and identify the key indicators that establish a baseline for Canada’s food safety and sustainability. The process and findings also create transparency within the industry, which ultimately could create trust or showcases opportunities for improvement and growth.

David McInnes, coordinator of the National Index on Agri-Food Performance, explains the basis for the index.

“This is a ground-up initiative to try to document just how sustainable Canada’s food system is. We often talk about the Canadian food, ingredients, commodities, of what we produce right across this country as being safe, sustainable, and responsibly-produced. But where’s the data that shows that credibly for the marketplace? So that’s what we’re trying to come up with,” says McInnes.

The we that McInnes refers to are 86 partners that have come together and is comprised of producers, processors, retailers, academia, technology firms, financial institutions, NGOs such as social organizations, environmental groups and all levels of government.

The goal of the index isn’t to score or grade any producer, retailer, company or even the country, McInnes says, instead, it is a competitive initiative aimed at identifying key indicators for sustainability, outlined by Canada. He says that this is an opportunity to measure ourselves and not have an outside organization dictate and determine what it means to be sustainable.

“We’re not setting the target. Rather, we’re setting out, what is the performance? How are we doing on sequestering carbon in soil, agricultural soils? How are we doing on addressing food waste and loss? Or plastics and packaging? What’s the baseline?,” explains McInnes.

It’s important to note that the index includes all aspects of the food supply chain, going back to where it all comes from — Canada’s ranchers, farmers and fishers. The indicators also include an important aspect that is, or can sometimes be, left out of many other sustainability reports – profitability.

“You have to have profitable farms and ranches, ranchers, to have and companies in order to be truly sustainable,” says McInnes.

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