Some grocery retailers and food service companies are asking their suppliers to measure and document their efforts to become more environmentally sustainable. This is a complex task and a wide variety of metrics are being used. A common complaint is that the data gathering, analysis, and reporting requirements are extensive and inconsistent. There is no standard reporting tool available that could be used by a wide variety of enterprises. To address this issue, the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops (SISC) was formed to develop standardized and science-based sustainability metrics for specialty crop farmers. SISC is a multi-stakeholder initiative and the participants include WalMart, SYSCO, Sodexho, Western Growers Association, Del Monte, American Farmland Trust and a number of other organizations. SISC seeks to offer a suite of outcomes-based metrics to enable growers to benchmark, compare, and communicate their own performance. Draft metrics have been developed regarding farm energy use, water use, greenhouse gas emissions, waste minimization, soil management, and others are under consideration. About 60 growers conducted pilot tests of the metrics in 2010 and SISC is seeking more growers to participate in further pilot tests using their 2011 data. Some food processors are working with their growers to document sustainability efforts and may be interested in participating in the SISC metric testing and development process. Anyone interested in learning more about SISC and the draft metrics can participate in a series of information webinars that will be held in December. If you would like more information, contact Jessica Siegal, SISC Program Director, by phone at 707-331-1810 or by e-mail at Jessica@aginnovations.org, or consult the SISC web site at www.stewardshipindex.org.

Article written by Rob Neenan, Senior Vice President

California League Of Food Producers