National Farmers' Federation

Australian Agricultural Sustainability Framework

Australian agricultural sustainability is the production of food and fibre which is environmentally, socially and economically responsible. Australia’s environment and climate is unique and requires production systems and an approach to sustainability in tune with local conditions

Recognising this, the Australian Agricultural Sustainability Framework has been created to tell our story. It provides international trading partners with confidence that Australia takes agricultural sustainability seriously and it provides clarity about how our agricultural production aligns with international climate and sustainability initiatives.

The AASF is based on 17 Principles across the three aspects of Environmental Stewardship, Social Responsibility and Good Governance. Each Principle is supported by criteria to aid in reporting against the framework.

The AASF will provide verified information about agri- cultural sustainability, drawing on national data sets and collaboration with industry-specific initiatives. The first report is being prepared for release in late 2024.

The AASF is a joint initiative led by the National Farmers’ Federation and supported by the Australian Government. Development commenced in 2020 and is ongoing, with Australian Farm Institute and CSIRO as primary delivery partners. It is aligned with global initiatives like the Sustainable Development Goals, the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative, Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture systems, and the Taskforces for Climate- related and Nature-related Financial Disclosures, with Australian commodity initiatives like Farming for the Future and AgCare also providing input.

Frequently Asked Questions

With public and market expectations evolving, many small and medium-sized farm businesses would like to do more. Farmers want to understand what the market wants and how to meet changing requirements

Increasingly, the public are influencing benchmarks for best practice. A research program into community trust is exploring the benefits and challenges for farmers in transparently and consistently demonstrating shared values about topics the general public care about, such as safe food, quality nutrition, outstanding animal care and environmental stewardship.

Trading partners and sources of capital and finance are increasingly expecting companies and products to meet global environmental, social and governance principles (ESG).

A framework will help build industry capacity across the supply chain to demonstrate the ‘proof’ of sustainability they require. It will also make it easier for farmers to engage with new and emerging, premium, and environmental markets.

The Australian Agricultural Sustainability Framework (AASF) has been created to communicate the sustainability status and goals of the Australian agricultural sector to domestic and global communities and markets.

The framework is voluntary and creates no additional cost for farmers, supply chain organisations, and other stakeholders.

It operates at national not farm level. Farmers will not report against the AASF, but they will be able to use it to understand finance, supply chain and market expectations about sustainability and ESG reporting.

The framework themes, principles and criteria are high level. This allows for diversity across commodities, geography and production systems.

The aim is for AASF to assist in alignment and consistency across existing and emerging frameworks, schemes and programs and to address common issues like access to data.

The framework has been informed by, and aligned with, relevant global sustainability schemes and standards (for example SAFA, SAI, WBA, GRI). It is not designed for certification or compliance.

So far development of AASF has engaged with more than 1300 farmers, finance, retail and supply chain representatives and other stakeholders.

Read more about the AASF on the Australian Farm Institute website here.

Development of the Australian Agriculture Sustainability Framework (AASF) is led by the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) on behalf of the Australian agricultural industry and is supported by the Australian Government through the Federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

The Australian Agriculture Sustainability Framework (AASF), functioning at the national level, is designed to prevent any increase in the burden of on-farm reporting. This approach ensures continued industry support for the initiative while establishing a precedent for the data ecosystem to deliver comprehensive reporting for the framework. By utilising this data, farmers will gain valuable insights into finance, supply chain and market expectations regarding sustainability and ESG (environmental, social and governance) requirements.

The AASF aims to streamline reporting processes and provide valuable information to farmers without imposing additional reporting burdens on them.

While many producers collect sustainability performance data on a property basis, whether that be aligned to an industry sustainability framework or for independent reporting, the need for national reporting is significant. Internationally, benchmarking national agricultural practice against environmental, social and governance (ESG) priorities is becoming essential to operate and compete. Australia does not have a national framework to coalesce this data and demonstrate national sustainability credentials in a framework that is aligned with international, industry and market requirements.

Customers, shareholders and regulatory bodies are increasingly seeking assurance when investing in Australian agricultural products. Demonstrating our sustainability credentials in a robust, industry supported framework provides them with the confidence that Australia can prove its sustainability status.

The uniqueness of Australian agriculture and its specific production conditions are not adequately reflected in the current global sustainability frameworks. As a result, domestic commodity-based sustainability frameworks have been developed to address these specific conditions. However, these frameworks are limited in scope as they focus solely on individual commodities and fail to address sustainability issues that are relevant to the entire agricultural industry. Moreover, many commodities face specific issues unique to them which may be challenging to confront and some existing frameworks might not have the courage to address them directly. As a result, commodity-based sustainability frameworks tend to overlook or sidestep these difficult challenges, which can hinder the comprehensive sustainability efforts needed to tackle the complexities of the agricultural sector effectively.

The Australian Agriculture Sustainability Framework (AASF) takes a different approach. It is designed with high-level themes, principles and criteria to accommodate the diverse range of commodities, geographic locations and production systems present in the country. By allowing this flexibility, the AASF aims to foster alignment and consistency across various existing and emerging frameworks, schemes and programs. Additionally, the framework seeks to tackle common issues like data accessibility, which can be beneficial for the entire agricultural sector in Australia.

Learn more about the AASF

Visit our website to learn more about the project team, what we are currently working on and more.