2016 Annual Letter
2015 marked a defining moment for sustainable agriculture with the signing of the Sustainable Development Goals and a growing number of public-private partnerships that aim to help realize them.
As countries, companies, and NGOs work to implement the Goals, COSA’s role is front and center – helping define what to measure in order to accelerate agricultural sustainability. Ultimately, COSA’s metrics and tools help create accountability in order to ensure getting results.
As we look out at the sustainability landscape, we are energized by the number of programs and initiatives across academia, civil society, government, and the private sector. At the same time, few of these initiatives take the holistic, multi-stakeholder, systemic approach that is needed for progress. Many lack robust assessment and monitoring frameworks. Almost none connect program data to decision-makers in real-time.
Our work over the past year has focused on integrating efforts within companies and across standards to address these challenges: helping the private sector apply responsible sourcing practices in their supply chains; influencing policy by increasing understanding of sustainability standards; and sharing best practices to grow our collective impact.
In the coming year, in addition to our work advancing common metrics and maintaining the rigor and neutrality we are known for, we look forward to expanding our efforts to new areas of work and wider audiences to help realize the SDGs and accelerate agricultural sustainability world-wide.
Some key focal areas:
Often, smallholders are best reached through the cooperatives to which they belong. According to the FAO, over one billion belong to cooperatives and producer organizations around the world, most of these in the agricultural sector.
Thanks to a multi-lateral effort and great input from our Producer Organization Advisory Panel, we will be piloting and launching Producer Organization Assessments to help cooperatives and their members see greater sustainability and improve their livelihoods.
Developing practical metrics to build resilience
Improving the resilience of smallholders is critical for agricultural sustainability. The need for an approach which continuously integrates the social, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainability is therefore more important than ever as we work across sectors toward achieving the SDGs.
Together with our partners Catholic Relief Services, Lutheran World Relief, Sustainable Food Lab, and Root Capital, we are launching work on resilience which will integrate cross-cutting indicators to help initiatives measure how resilient farming communities are to external shocks and stressors like climate change.
Monitoring sector transformation
Identifying effective interventions is key to ensuring progress over time. Yet robust long-term monitoring efforts within regions or subsectors have not kept pace with rapid increases in sustainability-oriented programs and investments.
COSA will bring together key experts from development agencies, the public sector, and academia to formulate 40 key sector assessment indicators. The indicators will be practical, diagnostic, easy to understand and implement, and combine global best practice with local expertise.
Expanding to new commodities
Together with the International Cotton Advisory Committee’s Social Environmental and Economic Performance team, the Textile Exchange, the Natural Resources Institute, S&D and Bonsucro, we have begun expanding our work to cotton, tea, and sugar in order to tailor the tools that companies and organizations use for these important commodities.
Finally, we will combine our learning and experience together with our partner the Inter-American Development Bank’s Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Environment (SAFE) program, to advance work that helps 150,000 smallholders in Latin America face the challenges of sustainable production.
As we build, expand, and apply our work over the coming year, one element remains constant. The COSA consortium would not exist without the countless partners, funders, staff, and friends whose daily support makes the work possible.