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SAFA - A Long-awaited Step Forward to Sustainability in the Food and Agriculture Sectors
1  FAO, Natural Resources Management and Environment Department

Abstract: The world is confronted with a multitude of crises, from food and fuel crises to climate and financial crises. Tackling these challenges would be greatly facilitated by a common language for sustainability and accountability that integrates all dimensions of sustainability. Experience with the development of sustainability and its implementation is still limited. The perception on what sustainability entails differs widely among stakeholders. FAO has developed Guidelines for the Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture systems (SAFA), which are the result of three years of participatory development, together with practitioners from civil society and private sector. They are a first step into international harmonisation of the requirements which underpin sustainable production, manufacturing and retailing of food and agriculture products. SAFA defines what sustainable food and agriculture systems are, including environmental integrity, economic resilience, social well-being and good governance; it outlines a procedure for an integrated analysis of all dimensions of sustainability, including the selection of appropriate indicators and rating of sustainability performance (i.e. best, good, moderate or insufficient); and it describes sustainability themes, sub-themes and indicators. SAFA does not replace existing systems, but set a frame to which such systems can be related. Running a SAFA results in a "sustainability polygone" that presents the performance of each of the 20 themes that are crucial to sustainability. There is still a lot of work ahead until the final version of the SAFA Guidelines is released, however as of mid next year it can already be used. SAFA can become a huge step forward to sustainability, depending on its reception most importantly by food companies and retailers.
Keywords: sustainability assessment, accountability, food chain, footprints, SAFA, resilience.