A coalition of Ontario farm organizations is working together with the food and beverage sector in an effort to clarify and streamline sustainability initiatives.
According to a press release, the initial consultation process aims to “create assessment equivalency and harmonize verification” among the many sustainability codes and standards throughout the farm and food value chain.
“Sustainability programs are an increasingly common request across the Canadian and global food and farming sector,” says Gord Surgeoner, chair of the Sustainable Farm and Food Coalition Steering Committee. “This is good news in terms of responding to environmental, social, and economic priorities, however, without some harmonization of these initiatives, both farmers and consumers will face a dizzying array of programs.”
The consultations will be critical in developing a draft framework for a “Sustainable Farm and Food Plan” that encompasses all three sustainability pillars: planet, people and profit. Producers, processors, retailers, food service, non-governmental organizations and consumer groups will all be contacted during the consultation phase, which is expected to take place over the next 12 to 18 months.
The coalition recently hired Synthesis Agri-Food Network as project manager for the initiative; while president Rob Hannam and consulting project lead, Bronwynne Wilton, will facilitate the stakeholder discussions in collaboration with food industry veteran David Smith of Orion Global Business Sustainability Consultants.
“Farmers and food manufacturers see a need for harmonizing standards to reduce the burden of reporting, while also recognizing there is equivalency in many categories,” says Wilton. “We are looking forward to conversations with stakeholders about developing a cohesive framework that reflects a whole-farm system approach. Our intent is to reduce redundancy and to keep things as simple as possible in terms of demonstrating the positive management practices in use on farms across the country.”