Why the pilot phase? The Test Version 1.0 of the SAFA Guidelines has been released by FAO in June, 2012. This has been subsequently modified in December, 2012 in the Test version 1.1 of the Guidelines. Although FAO has been building the Guidelines on existing sustainability practices and sharing the conceptual framework and indicators sets with stakeholders since 2009, the SAFA Guidelines could not be considered final without field testing.
SAFA pilot implementations were conducted in a variety of settings and through consultations between FAO and participating stakeholders. The outcome of the pilot tests are currently being used to improve and finalize the SAFA Guidelines. In addition, the pilot tests may serve as a reference for further SAFA development and improved practicability. FAO’s objective during the SAFA pilot phase was to ensure the smooth applicability, usefulness, acceptance and scientific soundness (e.g. sensitivity of indicators) of the SAFA Guidelines.
What was being tested? While SAFA users may simply wish to test the sustainability of their operations against an international reference document, the finalization of the SAFA Guidelines needs to be informed by lessons from its field implementation, especially with regards the following research questions:
Are the SAFA Guidelines applicable in all foreseen contexts, including agriculture, forestry and fisheries production, food industry and retail, in industrialized, emerging and developing countries, and by large (with large and diverse supplier networks), small and medium-size enterprises?
How can the SAFA Guidelines be optimized in terms of relevance to smallholders and accuracy related to cultural and other location-specific issues?
Is SAFA sufficiently sensitive to the different impacts of different management practices on sustainability?
How much resources are needed for a SAFA, including time required and costs for: (i) SAFA preparation; (ii) relevance and compliance check; (iii) data collection; and (iv) data interpretation?
Do the SAFA Guidelines provide sufficient information to allow for a benchmarking of existing sustainability standards and indicator sets?
Do the SAFA Guidelines provide the basis or could be further developed for usage for: (i) internal sustainability management; (ii) business-to-business communication; and (iii) business-to-consumer communication?
What needs to be optimized to enhance pilot users’ uptake of SAFA?
Where? The SAFA piloting were implemented in 30 settings, including:
Retail companies with a diverse supply network;
Large food companies with an international supply network;
Medium-size processing companies, from industrialized; emerging and developing countries;
Small-scale production enterprises focusing on agricultural food production; non-food production; fishery (both aquaculture and wild capture); forestry (both plantation and native forest); and wild harvest operations;
Food chains of the same commodity, comparing organic and GMO-based systems.
For a more detailed review, click here. Those who wished to undertake a SAFA first filled out the SAFA Questionnaire and returned it to FAO. The Questionnaire enabled the selection of the variety of different cases/settings needed for a comprehensive testing of SAFA, as well as on deciding where FAO backstopping resources were most needed.
SAFA tools? The Test Version of the SAFA Guidelines is publicly available on-line; it provides procedures and protocols for the 20 sustainability themes, 62 sub-themes and example indicators for each sub-theme. With a view to assist users, an instantiation of the generic SAFA Guidelines was made available through a SAFA Excel Sheet with instructions for undertaking: relevance check against the SAFA themes; compliance with the goals of SAFA sub-themes; indicators’ selection; adaptation of the indicators to the assessed entity’s situation; and performance evaluation leading to the sustainability polygon.
July-August 2012: call for SAFA pilot studies and benchmarking;
September-December 2012: submission of SAFA Questionnaires to FAO and benchmarking by providers of existing sustainability standards and indicator sets;
October 2012 to March 2013: pilot studies;
March 2013: submission of SAFA pilot outcomes and Workshop in FAO’s Headquarters (March 18-19);
April-June 2013: revision and finalization of the SAFA Guidelines.