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Developing a multi-stakeholder partnership on benchmarking and monitoring the environmental performance of livestock food chains.

With growing concerns about how food and other agriculture based products are produced, the livestock sector is under particular pressure to assess, improve and communicate on its environmental performance, while coping with the increasing demand for animal products. Growing public concerns imply the need for a fundamental shift—from traditional business advocacy to the identification of practical solutions for improving the environmental performance of the livestock sector.


In general, measuring the environmental performance of food production is not straightforward. The current approaches to environmental benchmarking in the livestock sector vary substantially. This variation, and the absence of agreed methodologies, renders the task of addressing environmental and sustainability issues challenging. This being the case, there is urgent need for broadly accepted and compatible methodologies that allow monitoring of environmental issues. Moreover, selected parameters must be assessed consistently for informed decision-making and for providing incentives to improve performances across value chains.


In light of these challenges, FAO officers from the Animal Production and Health Division (AGA) met with a group of agriculture and food business representatives in October 2010. An outcome of the meeting was the decision to explore the possibility of developing a multi-stakeholder partnership on benchmarking and monitoring the environmental performance of livestock food chains. FAO acted on this decision and developed a proposal that was discussed during a consultation with private sector representatives, government representatives, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and academia on 28 to 29 March 2011.


At the meeting, the purpose, scope, and mode of operation of the proposed multi-stakeholder partnership were discussed. Particular emphasis was placed on designing the potential functions and management structure of the partnership, which would enable the development of common methodologies and datasets for the benchmarking and monitoring of environmental performance. Also, time was allocated to A) identifying ways of improving the existing analyses of greenhouse gas emissions for food production, and B) prioritizing the other environmental impacts to be considered in the assessments.


At the end of the consultation, statements of support were received from all participants and it was agreed that FAO would develop a draft partnership agreement for comments.