Until now. Taking a cue from Harvard Medical School faculty member Atul Gawande, famous for his application of checklists to improving safety of surgery, IonE resident fellow C. Ford Runge and co-author Juan Gonzalez-Valero have developed an innovative sustainability index for agriculture that provides a simple, measurable and on-the-ground applicable protocol for ranking the sustainability of agricultural projects.
Known as the integrated sustainability index, the evaluation framework uses a 1-10 scale to incorporate various indicators of sustainability along three dimensions:
resource efficiency index - weighing benefits of increased agricultural production against impacts on soil, water and biodiversity
better solutions index - weighing benefits of increased reliable profitability to farmers against impacts on human health and safety
rural economy index - weighing benefits of increased human development in rural economies against the extent to which benefits are shared broadly in the community
The result is a clear depiction of the merits of a proposed farming system with respect to the economic, environmental and social aspects of sustainability that can:
- - help planners visualize trade-offs when comparing options or approaches
- - show how the relative balance of production, environmental impact and social impact change over time
- - show progress toward sustainability
- - bring considerations to planners' attention that might otherwise escape notice.
Like to learn more? Check out The Theory and Practice of Performance Indicators for Sustainable Food Security: A Checklist Approach - just published in Environmental Economics, Vol. 2, Issue 4, 2011.
IonE resident fellow C. Ford Runge is a distinguished McKnight University professor of applied economics and law. He holds appointments in the University of Minnesota's Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and the Department of Forest Resources, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.