The Sustainability Flower

The Sustainability Flower is the integrated sustainability model that we use to look at the impacts of food production on people and planet. The architecture of the Flower was based on international standards for sustainability reporting and True Cost Accounting. Every grower has a personal Sustainability Flower.

As a company we use the Sustainability Flower not just to monitor, but also to manage, monetize and market the sustainability performance of each individual grower. The Flower points the way to a sustainable food system and a green economy - where ecology meets economy.

The Flower in short

The Sustainability Flower has six petals. It groups all natural and social impacts of production, and the accompanying challenges, into these six main categories: 

  1. Climate: impacts on the climate; energy use and air pollution; dealing with climate change. 
  2. Water: impacts on fresh water quality and availability; dealing with water scarcity and pollution. 
  3. Soil: impacts on soil fertility, soil life, soil structure; dealing with soil degradation and erosion.
  4. Biodiversity: impacts on natural biodiversity and agrobiodiversity, plants and animals; dealing with loss of biodiversity and habitat.
  5. Social: impacts on people and society, on an individual, local and global level; dealing with all kinds of social challenges in the global community. 
  6. Health: impacts on people's health, including farmers, workers, local communities and consumers; health is defined as resilience and vitality on a physical, mental and spiritual level.

Social: Freedom, Justice, Solidarity

The "Social" category encompasses impacts in three planes of human development: cultural development which ideally leads to freedom, societal development which ideally leads to justice, and economical development which ideally leads to solidarity. These three terms, based loosely  on the ideals of the French revolution (Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité), are used to structure all social impact indicators.

  1. Freedom: impacts on people in the domain of the mind: education and individual development, knowledge, culture and spirituality.
  2. Justice: impacts on people in the domain of human relations: protection of human rights, avoidance of discrimination, employee participation, equal opportunities.
  3. Solidarity: impacts on people in the domain of material needs: work safety, providing means for food, housing, clothing, medical aid and other basic needs.

Three levels of evaluation

The Sustainability Flower performance of each individual grower can be evaluated at three consecutive levels:

  1. Qualitative assessment: based on interviews with the grower, a visit to the farm and the standards of organic practice, resulting in stories. Carried out by Eosta.
  2. Quantitative assessment: based on audit with formal KPI's, resulting in numbers and footprints. Carried out by Soil & More International. 
  3. True Cost assessment: based on True Cost Accounting, which evaluates impacts in terms of money. Carried out by EY and Soil & More International. 

No sustainability without transparency

We use the Sustainability Flower to communicate and market the sustainability performance of each individual grower, because we believe that there can be no sustainability without transparency. We want to empower consumers and all our partners in the production chain to make responsible choices. An anonymous market will always allow for ecological and social exploitation. By providing transparency, indifference gives way to solidarity, justice and freedom. 

International standards

The formal framework of the Sustainability Flower is partly based on GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards, partly on the National Capital Protocol, and partly other publications by the FAO, FiBL, WHO, A4S, NCC, TEEBAgFood and the WBCSD. Although hundreds of initiatives now exist for sustainability reporting, including SASB and IIRC, the Sustainability Flower is consistent with the best of them.

UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's)

The United Nations SDG's can be mapped onto the Sustainability Flower to a large extent. Towards the end of 2017 Nature & More will publish a paper which explains how the Sustainability Flower fits in the international and SDG framework.

Assessment partners

Sustainability Flower assessments are carried out by Eosta on a basic level and by Soil & More International and EY on advanced levels. 

History of the Flower

The Sustainability Flower was developed in 2009 by an international group of prominent pioneers and innovators of the organic movement, operating under the umbrella of the 'International Association and Partnership for Ecology and Trade'. Among them are the founders and leaders of Eosta / Nature & More, the Soil Association, Fibl, IFOAM and many others. For each aspect of the flower, performance indicators were defined on the basis of the GRI Guidelines. In 2016 the True Cost Accounting evaluation method was developed, in cooperation with the FAO, WBCSD, WHO, NCC and TEEBAgFood. In 2017, the visual representation of the flower was simplified, going from nine (air, water, soil, plants, animals, energy, freedom, justice, solidarity) to six main categories: climate, water, soil, biodiversity, social impact, health. The underlying model of KPI's (Key Performance Indicators) stays the same, supplemented with True Cost criteria.

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Nature & More 2.0: the True Cost of Food