18 May 2020
5th European Agroforestry Conference

Nuoro, Sardinia. Call for abstracts

7 July 2020
OF&G National Organic Combinable Crops 2020

NOCC20 will take place on John Pawsey’s Shimpling Park Farm in Suffolk

22 February 2020
Help people to bake a better future, one loaf at a time

The 11th annual international Real Bread Week runs from 22 February to 1 March

21 February 2020
Organic Farm Knowledge

A unique resource with tools for farmers across Europe

21 January 2020
Organic Research Centre starts 40th year at new headquarters

ORC is now operational from Trent Lodge in Cirencester.

Ekhaga Sustainability Assessment

Full project title:

Further Development of Methodologies for Sustainability Assessment and Monitoring in Organic/Ecological Agriculture

Project code:


Contract period:

From 13 January 2013 ongoing

Main funder:

Ekhaga Foundation, Sweden

Contact staff at ORC:

Dr Bruce Pearce

Other staff involved:

Dr Susanne Padel, Prof Nic Lampkin, Dr Catherine Gerrard, Laurence Smith

Project aims

The hypothesis of the project is that building sustainability impact assessments of organic/ecological farms, building on the FAO SAFA Guidelines (FAO, 2012) and other relevant approaches will lead to the most comprehensive and internationally recognised sustainability monitoring system of organic/ecological farms. Such a monitoring system will help i) improve the sustainability performance of organic/ ecological farms and ii) addresses many of the criticism of organic/ecological agriculture by demonstrating directly the actual sustainability performance of such farms.

The overall aim of the project is to transfer the FAO SAFA guidelines into a set of societal level indicators (i.e. water quality, soil health, biodiversity) which can be used in a sustainability monitoring system of organic/ecological farms. It is intended that the indicator sets will be appropriate for labelling, policy- monitoring and farmer-decision making approaches. To achieve this aim, the project will pursue the following sub-objectives.

  1. To analyse and evaluate existing sustainability assessment approaches of farms and identify suitable indicators or sets of indicators to assess the sustainability performance of ecological/organic farms by evaluating their environmental integrity (including animal health and welfare), economic resilience, social wellbeing and good governance.
  2. To identify interdependencies and correlations between the identified performance outcomes and indicators on the basis of scientific literature,
  3. To synthesise the results into draft guidelines for applications of the indicator sets to assess and monitor the sustainability performance of organic/ecological farms for farmer decision-making, policy monitoring and labelling/communication with consumers.

The work will be undertaken in four work packages (WP) related to the above sub-objectives. Both partners will be involved in all work packages.

ORC's role

Project leader.

Project leader and partners

Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), CH.


Final report: Padel, Susanne; Gerrard, Catherine L; Smith, Laurence; Schader, Christian; Baumgart, Lukas; Stolze, Matthias and Pearce, Bruce (2015) Further Development of Methodologies for Sustainability Assessment and Monitoring in Organic/Ecological Agriculture. ORC reports, no. 2015/1. Organic Research Centre, Newbury.


Foresi, L (2013) Further Development of Methodologies for Sustainablity Assessment in Ecologial/Organic Agriculture. Unpublished Report on Internship at ORC. Organic Research Centre, Newbury.

Marchand, F., Debruyne, L., Triste, L., Gerrard, C., Padel, S. and Lauwers, L. (2014) Key characteristics for tool choice in indicator-based sustainability assessment at farm level. Ecology and Society, 19 (3)

Schader, C., L. Baumgart, J. Landert, A. Muller, S. Padel, C. Gerrard and M. Stolze (2015). 'Assessing the sustainability performance at farm-level: Synergies and trade-offs between environmental, social and economic sustainability themes'. World Sustainability Forum. 7-9 September 2015, Basel, Switzerland, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI).

Schader, C., Grenz, J., Meier, M. S., & Stolze, M. (2014). Scope and precision of sustainability assessment approaches to food systems. Ecology and Society, 19(3): 42.

Schader C, Baumgart L, Landert J, Muller A, Ssebunya B, Blockeel J, Weisshaidinger R, Petrasek R, Mészáros D, Padel S, Gerrard CL, Smith L, Lindenthal T, Niggli U, Stolze M (2016) Using the Sustainability Monitoring and Assessment Routine (SMART) for the Systematic Analysis of Trade-Offs and Synergies between Sustainability Dimensions and Themes at Farm Level. Sustainability, 8 274.

Smith, L.G., Gerrard, C., Schader, C., Padel, S. (2015). Developing Sustainability Assessment Methods for Organic Agriculture. The Organic Research Centre Bulletin 119 (Autumn/Winter), p17.

Previous relevant work

Development of methodology for assessing the environmental, economic and social characteristics of (organic and non-organic) farming systems (FSAM)

Public Goods Tool

The Energy, Emissions, Ecology and Agricultural System Integration (Easi)

Environmental benchmarking

All sources of funding