Project Design


The purpose of the Sustainable Sourcing of Global Agricultural Raw Materials project is to assist food companies and other stakeholders by creating scientifically-validated frameworks and a platform to advance sustainability in agricultural sourcing decisions. It involves a critical review of sustainability issues, best practices and indicators of key dimensions of food system sustainability at various scales (field-level to global). It is designed to:


  • develop comprehensive conceptual frameworks to guide agricultural raw materials sourcing
  • identify core sustainability issues in global agricultural raw materials sourcing
  • assess indicators for a comprehensive set of sustainability issues
  • link core issues with new strategies that accelerate progress toward sustainability in supply chains
  • develop a public, web-based, networked database that will allow users to find information on specific issues, indicators and strategies

  • create a permanent scientific platform that allows for continuous development and adaptation of tools


The following principles guide this work. 1) The frameworks, indicators and other project outputs must be scientifically credible, appropriate for all the major categories of commodities in international agricultural trade, comprehensive in their conceptualization of sustainability, useful for the private sector, and legitimate in the eyes of civil society. 2) They must also be flexible enough to be adapted to lessons learned from operational experience and emerging scientific insights regarding global food system sustainability.

Project Phases

  • Phase 1: Conceptualization & Framing Issues (complete)
  • Phase 2: Planning & Design (complete)
  • Phase 3: Development & Testing


Phase 1 includes four activities: 1) Developing conceptual frameworks to guide understanding of the elements of sustainable sourcing across agricultural supply chains; 2) Scoping sustainability issues; 3) Identifying indicators associated with an initial set of core issues for each framework; and 4) Developing a prototype database.

Phase 2 focuses issues and information in credible, useful, and legitimate ways. The lists of core issues and sets of indicators developed during phase 1 will be assessed to derive practical yet comprehensive lists of sustainability issues and correlated indicators for each framework (impact/mitigation and vulnerability/resilience). This will be done in collaboration with a representative group of key stakeholders, and our technical advisory committee, to ensure the credibility, legitimacy and usefulness of the frameworks, issues and indicators.

Phase 3 puts this information into action. Phase 3 will entail working with potential users to translate the results generated in phases 1 and 2 into decision-support tools. Integrating the scientifically credible information derived in phases 1 and 2, with collaboratively-developed tools for accessing that information will enable a systematic approach to the adoption of sustainability targets and strategies, including methods to monitor and improve sustainability choices over time. To facilitate wider awareness, use of and input on project outputs, phase 3 also will include focused public communications about the platform and how it can be used.

Read our full project synopsis, updated October 2013.

The Sustainable Sourcing Project process is fully documented and available for review.  The process document describes the evolution of the project design and justification for various methods chosen throughout the project.