19 January 2021
Intercropping for sustainability

Two-day Conference with AAB, DIVERSify and ReMIX at Reading University

6 September 2021
Organic World Congress 2021

New date! Postponed from September 2020

30 July 2020
ORC welcomes the National Food Strategy

The first major reviewof our food system in 75 years

24 July 2020
The future of organic farming and the environment

All to play for if full benefits of organic farming for wildlife, the environment and health are to be realised

29 April 2020
Tim Bennett is the new Chair of ORC

Former NFU president takes on chairmanship of Organic Research Centre

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