SAI Platform’s Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA): How benchmarking can raise the profile of your sustainability initiatives

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The Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI Platform) Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) is a tool used widely by food sector businesses to measure and monitor sustainability practices within their supply chains.

SAI Platform’s Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA): How benchmarking can raise the profile of your sustainability initiatives

Successful implementation of the tool allows users to reference it as a standard giving assurance to buyers of the sustainability of supplies.  Businesses may benchmark their own sustainability standards against SAI FSA to raise awareness of their own in-house efforts. SAI Platform is also working with other standard owners such as Field to Market and SCS Global to map their equivalency which can help harmonise standards for businesses who are sourcing globally. Leslie Berger explains how food businesses can use SAI Platform’s FSA tool to raise the profile of their own sustainability standards and outlines ADAS’s benchmarking services for promoting sustainable supply chains.

Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI Platform)

The Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI Platform) is an industry led non-profit organisation supporting food and drinks companies in their efforts to implement sustainable food production practices.  SAI Platform’s membership includes 90 food sector businesses who are encouraged to work together in this pre-competitive space. SAI Platform currently supports a range of projects some of which can be seen here: Doñana Berry Project, SAIRISI - Sustainable Italian Rice Project. In addition to these SAI Platform supported projects, members are encouraged to join together to find ways to tackle the big sustainability challenges collaboratively. 

Sustainable Agriculture Initiative’s Farm Sustainability Assessment (SAI FSA)

One of SAI Platform’s tools that is gaining traction with food businesses is the Farm Sustainability Assessment tool.  The tool is used in 35 countries and has been translated into 19 languages to assess, improve and communicate on-farm sustainability and sustainable sourcing practices.  The SAI FSA uses a simple scoring system that allows farmers and their customers to understand the sustainability of farm practices looking across a range of environmental, economic and social factors.  A system of points is applied based on farmer responses to a selection of questions to calculate a bronze, silver, or gold rating FSA by SAI Platform. Food and drink businesses can assess and compare the sustainable practices of multiple suppliers and farmers using this tool and can use the FSA to benchmark against other existing schemes and standards. This can help give credibility to in-house company standards that may not be widely recognised.

Since 2014 ADAS has been working closely with SAI Platform on a series of benchmarking exercises to assess the equivalence of SAI Platform’s FSA tool against industry standards such as Red Tractor or Global Gap, against government legislation such as the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and agri-environmental schemes, as well as commercial food business standards. ADAS works directly with food businesses as an independent third party consultant to carry out benchmarking to compare bespoke company standards with SAI Platform’s FSA. This service is beneficial to food businesses as initial benchmark results can identify gaps in business’s own standard. This helps to inform programmes for improvement in sustainable practices and can support the setting of sustainability targets. 

Developed baseline understanding of supply chain and Origins programme

 ADAS used farmer interviews and information dissemination to establish the sustainability baseline of the management practices Kellogg’s growers were employing. ADAS carried out a benchmark comparing Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Farm Sustainability Assessment checklist questions with data collected from Kellogg’s growers.

Client Benefits

  • Identified strengths and weaknesses in the sustainability of Kellogg’s crop production systems
  • Enabled a SWOT analysis with recommendations provided
  • Supported alignment with industry standards

Benchmarking Cargill’s new Triple S® Waxy Corn Standard against SAI FSA

ADAS supported Cargill in benchmarking their sustainability standard against the Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) for their food customers. This farm level standard is part of Cargill’s Triple S® sustainability range which delivers on the Waxy Corn promise for starch food ingredients. The standard was developed to meet the needs of customers for sustainable ingredients when no mainstream industry standard exists. Cargill’s new standard, is applicable to corn grown in France and focusses on four key sustainability areas:  biodiversity, soil quality, water quality and water resources, with continuous improvement an essential component. 

ADAS assisted Cargill in successfully achieving silver equivalency for their waxy corn standard.


Client benefits

  • Gap analysis provided insight on the strengths and weaknesses of Cargill’s Triple S® Waxy Corn standard in relation to SAI FSA
  • Provided advice on measures that could be taken for Cargill’s standard to achieve the desired equivalency
  • Benchmark helped Cargill’s customers to align the offering with SAI FSA standard raising the profile of Cargill’s sustainability initiatives

How ADAS can support businesses:

Develop new sustainability programmes or benchmark existing schemes: ADAS can support the development of new bespoke sustainability programmes to align with SAI FSA, or can benchmark existing schemes against SAI FSA

Benchmarking activities: ADAS uses SAI FSA’s established benchmarking template to score each element of business sustainability programme using an agreed scoring system

  1. Review documentation describing company sustainability programme
  2. Calculate scores across a range of focus questions covering legal compliance, health and safety, farm management, environmental management, labour conditions and financial stability
  3. Provide benchmark score for in-house standard.  Once benchmark is complete ADAS reviews results with standard owner providing rationale for scoring.  If required, ADAS may provide advice on ways to improve score.

Auditing and verification systems:

  1. Review governance and verification for standard
  2. For standards to be published and the results considered to be equivalent to SAI FSA ratings, self-assessment and auditing procedures must be in place and must meet SAI requirements 
  3. ADAS can support set up of auditing and verification systems for standard

Development of management groups to satisfy SAI FSA requirements

ADAS can support FSA implementation by advising on set-up of management groups necessary to guide suppliers.  This may cut across geographical areas, include variable types of suppliers and farming systems.

For more information on how ADAS can help your business with benchmarking and other aspects of responsible sourcing please visit

Equivalency of standards helps to extend their reach

Benchmarking an in-house sustainability standard against SAI FSA and achieving a Gold, Silver or Bronze rating can serve to raise the profile of the company’s own standard, which in itself may not be widely recognised.  Once an in-house standard is benchmarked and the process is certified by SAI Platform then this information may be shared publically on SAI Platform’s website and via the company’s own press outlets.  This can help in businesses efforts to communicate what they are doing to promote best practice in their supply chains.

This reach is extended even further as SAI has been working with other sustainability standard owners on mapping their equivalency which can help harmonise standards for businesses who are sourcing globally. 

In 2017 the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI Platform) and Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture completed a year long benchmarking assessment and agreed to formally recognise each other’s standards as equivalent. Participating US farmers can earn their SAI FSA bronze equivalency by completing the Fieldprint questionnaire and confirming that they comply with all local, state and federal laws and regulations relevant for their farming operation. US farmers can qualify for the higher standard of SAI FSA silver or gold by answering some additional questions that have been jointly developed by the two standard owners. This equivalency means that global food businesses who are using SAI FSA may now have confidence when sourcing from US farmers using Fieldprint of the sustainability of their supplies. This equivalency will reduce the burden and cost of additional auditing requirements and will promote a more streamlined application these standards.  SAI Platform/ Field to Market

In early 2018 SAI Platform and SCS Global completed their benchmark of SAI’s FSA tool and SCS Global’s Sustainably Grown Certification Program®. SCS’s sustainably grown standard has been used globally for fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, grains and other crops. The standard is accredited by ANSI (American National Standards Institute), aligned with the Global Social Compliance Programme, recognised by Unilever, the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), and other major brands. Products certified as Sustainably Grown can now also be recognised as FSA silver level. Achieving equivalency between these standards helps to promote harmonisation and transparency in supply chains and gives users added recognition for their efforts.  SAI Platform/SCS Global

For more information on benchmarking your sustainability standard against SAI Platform’s FSA, please contact Leslie Berger.

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