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Measuring sustainability at farm level: A critical view on data and indicators
Department of Economics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.
The Nordic Africa Institute. Department of Economics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.
Department of Economics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.
Department of Economics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.
2023 (English)In: Environmental and Sustainability Indicators, E-ISSN 2665-9727, Vol. 18, article id 100258Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Measuring sustainability at farm level is a priority for both research and policy and requires sustainability indicators to track progress. Indicators make the sustainability concept more concrete and guide farm level decisions, playing a decisive role in determining food system impacts on societies and the environment. Data availability is often a limiting factor when choosing indicators, but not enough attention is paid to the role of data in indicator construction and assessment results. This paper assessed the critical role of data in indicator construction and the potential limitations that current data availability imposes on farm-level sustainability assessments, using the example of dairy farms in Sweden. To do so we used a five-step approach consisting of a literature review, an inventory of data sources, an expert consultation, a matching and gap analysis, and a critical assessment. We found that 20 indicators categorized under 12 out of 20 sustainability themes had measurement issues due to missing scope, temporary data, or additional data requirements. At least some indicators were measurable within all themes in the social and economic dimensions while all indicators for pesticides, non-renewable energy, and soil quality in the environmental dimension had measurement issues. In the critical assessment, we argue that for some indicators, there are trade-offs between data availability and issues of comprehensibility and analytical validity. Furthermore, we found that no single data source could be used to measure all themes; which means that merging of different data sets is needed for a broader on-farm sustainability assessment. Our findings are relevant for the discussion on sustainability indicators and will inform future programs aimed at collecting sustainability data at farm level, which should consider the broad data needs identified and the potential to merge data to enable holistic sustainability assessments.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2023. Vol. 18, article id 100258
Keywords [en]
Agriculture, Data, Dairy farms, Economic sustainability, Environmental sustainability, Social sustainability
National Category
Other Agricultural Sciences not elsewhere specified Animal and Dairy Science Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use Other Veterinary Science Economics
Research subject
Economy; Natural resources and environment
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:nai:diva-2842DOI: 10.1016/j.indic.2023.100258OAI: oai:DiVA.org:nai-2842DiVA, id: diva2:1754585
Funder
Mistra - The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research, DIA 2018/24 #8
Note

The work is part of Mistra Food Futures (DIA 2018/24 #8); a research program funded by Mistra (The Swedish foundation for strategic environmental research). 

Available from: 2023-05-03 Created: 2023-05-03 Last updated: 2024-02-02Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
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