Many sustainability standards and public-sector initiatives exist to help agricultural commodity farmers adopt more sustainable practices. Each initiative has its own way of collecting data, and monitoring and reporting progress. This makes tracking of improvement across and within sectors challenging. And there is currently no clear view of how the sustainable agriculture sector is contributing to the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As these standards and initiatives increasingly focus on SDG reporting towards 2030, producers are investing more time and resources in collecting all the information required for each scheme. Adopting one consistent approach would help to reduce the data collection burden. However, there are distinct challenges involved for sustainability standard organisations in harmonising their monitoring and reporting practices.
In order to create a truly transparent and credible framework and a universal way for stakeholders to use the data, it’s important to ensure that the complex and diverse needs of all stakeholders are met.
The Delta Project Approach
The Delta Project focused on producing a clear, consistent way to measure and report the progress of farms participating in sustainable commodity certification schemes or other sustainable agriculture initiatives.
Funded by the ISEAL Innovation Fund, the project collaborators included major sustainability standard organisations from the cotton and coffee sectors. The founding organisations are Better Cotton, the Global Coffee Platform (GCP), the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) and the International Coffee Association (ICO).
This unique, cross-sector collaboration reached consensus on key sustainability indicators and guidance materials that were extensively tested by the Project participants and other stakeholders. Eight sustainable cotton standards, programmes and codes (members of the Cotton 2040 Working Group on Impact Metrics alignment) signed a Memorandum of Understanding in which they commit to align on Impacts Measurement and Reporting.
The outcome of the project is the Delta Framework, a harmonised approach to sustainability performance reporting, designed to support business, governments and not-for-profit actors alike in quantifying and communicating their progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It also provides an opportunity to develop cross-sector services to respond to producers’ collective challenges, while reducing their reporting burden and providing a greater incentive to monitor progress.
The Delta Framework
The Delta Framework features a common set of environmental, social, and economic indicators to measure sustainability across the cotton and coffee commodity sectors. It is accompanied by guidance material to help ensure companies and governments can use the information effectively.
The Framework also provides examples of best practices, methodologies and tools to encourage stakeholders to adopt and use the framework, and recommendations on how private or public entities can effectively communicate sustainability information to their stakeholders.
The Delta Framework provides a standardised way for commodity sectors to collect farm-level data, monitor and report progress on sustainability, and it enables a shared view of results across sector, while helping to create a common language for sustainability in agriculture. The use of a common framework can benefit multiple stakeholders (see below). And better insights about challenges and opportunities across sectors can help improve the quality of support and services provided to farmers, including better financing and government policies.