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The New Zealand Sustainability Dashboard: Unified monitoring and learning for sustainable agriculture in New Zealand

Manhire, J.
Moller, H.
Barber, A.
Saunders, Caroline M.
MacLeod, C.
Rosin, C.
Lucock, D.
Post, Elizabeth A.
Ombler, F.
Campbell, H.
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Working Paper
Fields of Research
ANZSRC::070108 Sustainable Agricultural Development
The New Zealand Sustainability Dashboard project will develop a sustainability assessment and reporting tool in partnership with five primary industry sectors in New Zealand. Internationally recognised frameworks and their key generic sustainability performance indicators (KPIs) will be co-opted to ensure that overseas consumers can benchmark and verify the sustainability credentials of New Zealand exported products. We will also design New Zealand and sector-specific KPIs to guide farmers and local consumers to best practices of special relevance to New Zealand society, ecology and land care. Monitoring protocols will be described, where possible for the farmers themselves to rapidly score their own performance across economic, social and environmental dimensions of food and fibre production. A multifunctional web application will be created that facilitates uploading of regular monitoring results and instantly summarises and reports back trends to the growers, to industry representatives, and to agriculture regulators and policy makers at regional and national government levels. Tests of the accuracy and statistical reliability of the KPIs will be coupled with ongoing research on how much the farmers use the tool, whether it changes their actions and beliefs for more sustainable agriculture, and whether stakeholders at all levels of global food systems trust and regularly use the tool.The Dashboard will be more than just a compliance and eco-verification tool – it will also provides a hub for learning to become more sustainable. It will create an information ‘clearinghouse’ for linking past data sources and at least five existing decision-support software applications so that growers can discover optimal choices for improved farming practice,should the Dashboard alert them that their KPIs are approaching amber of red alert thresholds. We will also design and test two new decision-support packages; one enabling farmers to calculate their energy and carbon footprint and how it can best be reduced; and a whole-farm ‘What if’ decision-support package that explores how investment in improving one sustainability KPI (eg. application of nitrogen fertilizer) affects another (eg. farm profit). The Sustainability Dashboard will also include customisation capabilities for use in product traceability; for undertaking surveys of users; for estimating the value placed on different aspects of sustainability by growers, industry representatives, regulators and consumers; for comparing Māori and other communities’ values in sustainability assessments; and for identifying market opportunities and constraints. The Dashboard web application will be designed so it can be quickly integrated into an industry’s/sector’s existing IT platform and infrastructure and this will facilitate rapid uptake. Some host industries may force growers to use the Sustainability Dashboard as part of their existing Market Assurance scheme.