Sustainability assessment in agriculture: from a literature review to a benchmarking analysis

Costa, Ana Alexandra Vilela Marta Rio
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Despite Sustainable Development and inherently sustainable agriculture, are finally perceived as a contemporary urgency on a global level, there are still several concerns associated to our sustainability-oriented knowledge gap. However, as to truly understand the absolute meaning of sustainability, it is also recognized the necessity to review current practices regarding its evaluation, this study aims to enlighten foremost, understandings and major traits of distinguished assessment tools developed worldwide by a multitude of sectors. For such, a structured literature review was conducted to comprehend major limitations and potentialities regarding sustainability assessment, followed by a comparative review of all 105 identified tools amid the process. Results not only confirmed several established observations pointed out among literature - mostly translated into an explosion of developed assessment tools, with an incessant focus on environmental concerns, but also showed one possible explanation for research of this nature being frequently tagged as inadequate. The fact that a considerable portion of the tools analysed shared a clear affinity towards arable farming, while one third was labelled as universal, led us to conclude that such context comprehensiveness polarity may be linked to our ineffectiveness to properly evaluate the sustainability of a certain good, service or activity. Thus, this work contributes to engage any stakeholder involved in sustainability to embrace not only a proper integration of all sustainability core components, but also to acknowledge the importance to consider the component context-comprehensiveness, when aiming for a complete and holistic assessment of their businesses sustainability level.
sustainability assessment tools , sustainability evaluation , TBL , Comparative review , Context comprehensiveness