Agriculture must be at the centre of each sustainability policy: It has a key role to play in healthy sustainable nutrition, climate protection and the protection of biodiversity. In Germany, agriculture is also integrated into global value chains or oriented towards exports, which means it is also jointly responsible for reducing ecological and social costs in other countries.
On 1 February 2021, the Chamber of Agriculture of North Rhine-Westphalia, together with the University of Bonn, published the final report of the project „A Sustainability Code for Agriculture“, which was funded by the German Federal Foundation for the Environment and supported by the Ministry of Environment and Agriculture of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. Imme Scholz, Deputy Director of the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) was invited to the event to discuss how the sustainability requirements of consumers, trade and politics can be implemented on the farm. She discussed this question with farmers attending from the dairy production, arable farming and animal husbandry sectors. Imme Scholz contributed with both – the positions of the German Council for Sustainable Development, of which she is Vice Chair, as well as insights she gained from accompanying this project over the past year and a half. For example, the project has shown that sustainability assessment at the company level does not necessarily correspond to the sustainability of the sector level. At the same time, there is growing pressure to adapt land use for the goal of achieving greenhouse gas neutrality in Germany by 2050, for water and groundwater protection, and for biodiversity conservation.
Codes for economic operations in other sectors are used for the conversion to sustainability and for sharpening the view for the social and ecological services (or costs) of the farm management, which are not directly reflected in the farm result. It is very important that agriculture is opening up to this field of learning. Now, this willingness to change needs support, especially by a sustainability-oriented reform of the Common European Agricultural Policy.