Frequently Asked Questions

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Introduction

What is the Farm Sustainability Assessment?
Developed by SAI Platform, the Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) is a set of tools for food and drink businesses that want to assess, improve and validate on-farm sustainability in their supply chains. The tools enable effective and efficient supply chain collaboration right down to the level of the farmer.
Which topics does the Farm Sustainability Assessment cover?
The Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) is a self-assessment questionnaire with 112 questions about farming practices in 17 topic areas. The questions cover all pillars of sustainability: environmental, social and business.
Which type of farm can apply the Farm Sustainability Assessment?
The Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) is applicable to all agricultural crops, in all locations, regardless of farm size. Almost 100,000 farmers in more than 25 countries around the world belong to FSA verified farm groups. They produce a wide and expanding range of row crops, fruit, vegetables, nuts, herbs and spices. There is a special FSA for mushroom.
I understand that the Farm Sustainability Assessment is a self-assessment tool. Is it also possible to have the results independently verified?
Yes, the Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) offers optional third-party verification of self-assessment results. FSA-approved Verification Bodies perform audits to assess if an individual farm or a group of farmers have implemented the FSA correctly, and if the self-assessment results at farm level are in line with their findings. On this basis, Verification Bodies can issue an FSA Letter of Attestation that enables making an FSA Performance Claim.
Does a company have to be a member of SAI Platform to use the Farm Sustainability Assessment?
No, the Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) and all related tools and materials are freely downloadable from the FSA Resource Centre. Non-members are also allowed to make FSA Performance Claims. However, SAI Platform members benefit from exclusive access to the FSA Web App, as well as receiving close support on FSA implementation and communication. Members are also actively involved in the governance and development of the FSA. Follow the link to learn more about the benefits of SAI Platform membership.

Benefits and Value

My company buys agricultural ingredients. Why should we consider the Farm Sustainability Assessment?
The Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) provides companies that buy raw or processed agricultural materials with a standardised approach to achieve their sustainable farming targets in line with market requirements. The FSA is the single reference for sustainable farming across all cultivated crops anywhere in the world. By using this reference, companies can consistently engage with their suppliers in understanding and improving on-farm sustainability performance.
My company buys raw agricultural products from farmers. Why should we consider the Farm Sustainability Assessment?
The Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) allows first-level aggregators and primary processors to demonstrate that their farmers are engaged in an internationally recognised programme to assess, improve and validate on-farm sustainability performance. Food and drink companies around the world use the FSA to collaborate with their supplier on sustainability or define their sustainable sourcing requirements in terms of FSA Performance Levels.
I understand the benefits of the Farm Sustainability Assessment for my company, but how do farmers benefit from it?
The Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) meets farmers right where they are on their sustainability journey. The FSA provides farmers with the possibility to demonstrate their sustainability performance against an internationally accepted framework. The FSA has also benchmarked almost 100 on-farm sustainability schemes and given them an equivalency level which saves farmers time and money on multiple sustainability audits.
Is the Farm Sustainability Assessment supported as credible by stakeholders outside of the food industry?
The Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) was developed with expert input from people inside and outside of the industry, including leading NGOs, universities, farmers and their representative groups. SAI Platform used this input and builds on well-recognised existing standards and schemes–to develop the FSA. It is therefore seen as both a credible and complementary tool for assessing sustainable agricultural practices.
OK, the Farm Sustainability Assessment fits with our company’s needs. Where do I start?
There is a wealth of resources available for download in the FSA Resource Centre. If your company buys raw agricultural products from farmers, SAI Platform recommends reading the FSA Implementation Framework. Companies that do not buy directly from farmers are advised to read the FSA Supply Chain Implementation Guide.

Farm Level Implementation

The questions in the Farm Sustainability Assessment might be difficult for the farmers we work with to understand. How can I help them understand the FSA better?
The Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) is a list of highly generic questions, because it needs to be applicable to all crop farming worldwide. SAI Platform advises to support farmers in answering these questions. This can be done by adapting the questions to the specific farming context and by providing hands-on support when farmers fill out the FSA. Using the FSA Topic Guides and FSA Training Toolkit will help you to support farmers in this process.
My company is a primary processor and we are interested in making an FSA Performance Claim. What do we need to do?
Companies that have followed the FSA Implementation Framework with a group of farmers can choose to have their implementation verified through a third-party audit. This audit includes a review of the Farm Management System, a sample of self-assessments and a smaller sample of on-farm audits. FSA Performance Claims can only be made based on a completed verification audit.
Do all farmers in a group need to self-assess and undergo third-party verification?
No, only a minor sample of farms need to be self-assessed or third-party audited when implementing the Farm Sustainability Assessment with a group of farmers. The size of both samples depends on the number of farmers in the group. The exact sample size can be found in the FSA Implementation Framework.
My company is ready to have its FSA Performance level third-party verified. Where can I find the list of approved audit companies?
You can find the list of SAI Platform Approved FSA Verification Bodies here. Please contact the Verification Body Scheme Manager to ask for a quote or discuss your request. FSA Verification Bodies are subject to a range of requirements, including training. Auditors are required to follow FSA Audit Guidance in performing an FSA Audit. Most FSA Verification Bodies have qualified FSA auditors available worldwide.
How much does it cost to implement the Farm Sustainability Assessment?
The Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) is an open access and free to use toolset for food & drink companies and farms. Implementing the FSA will require a time investment to engage suppliers, set up a Farm Management System and do sample FSA self-assessments. Further investment may be needed to support farmers improve their practices. If you are looking to make FSA performance claims based on the self-assessment results, 3rd party verification is required.
The invoice from the Verification Body includes a reference to a VB License Fee. What is this fee?
SAI Platform charges a License Fee to Verification Bodies (VBs). This fee is used to cover all activities related to the Farm Sustainability Assessment audit management programme. This includes VB Approval and Maintenance, VB Training and our VB Integrity Programme. VBs have no other way to offset these costs and therefore typically charge their clients for it.

Supply Chain Level Implementation

My company wants to buy FSA verified products. Where can I find an overview of FSA verified producers?
There is no publicly available register of primary processors that are FSA verified. Primary Processors can choose to disclose their FSA verified status in the FSA Web App, which is exclusively available to SAI Platform members.
My company wants to communicate about FSA performance to consumers by putting the FSA label on-pack. Can we do that?
No, the name and label of the Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) are not allowed to be used on consumer packaging. The FSA name and label can be used off-pack via online consumer communications such as sustainability reporting. FSA Performance Level Claims can only be made based on third-party verification results. Please consult the SAI Platform Communications Guide for guidance on making FSA Performance Level Claims.
Are there any Chain of Custody requirements to make FSA claims?
No, companies are free to determine their own traceability requirements to support FSA volume claims. At farm group level, the Farm Sustainability Assessment requires a mass-balance approach to traceability. Third-party verification, a precondition for making FSA Claims, will include an audit of the traceability system at farm group level.

Benchmarking

Where can I find the list of sustainability schemes that have been benchmarked against the Farm Sustainability Assessment?
The list of benchmarked schemes including their level of FSA equivalence can be found here. Please note that this list is regularly updated to include additions and changes.
My organisation is considering having a new on-farm sustainability scheme benchmarked against the Farm Sustainability Assessment. How does it work?
Benchmarks are performed by one of three SAI Platform approved benchmarking consultants. A benchmarking consultant is contracted by the party that is interested in the benchmark. The number of consultancy days required depends on the scope of the benchmark. Please find more detailed information about the Benchmarking Methodology here and contact SAI Platform if you are interested in doing a benchmark.
My company sources from farmers that are already certified against GLOBALG.A.P. Fruit & Vegetables. Should we use the GLOBALG.A.P.- FSA Add-on?
This is an option likely to save your farmers time as well as be more cost-efficient to your company. Please find more information about the GLOBALG.A.P. Add-on here or get in touch with GLOBALG.A.P. directly.
My company sources from farmers that are already enrolled in Field-to-Market projects. Should we use the Field to Market FSA Equivalency Module?
Yes, the Equivalency Module makes it easier for companies who use the Field Print Calculator (FPC) to also get started with the FSA. It allows growers using the FPC to reach FSA bronze level just by confirming compliance to federal and state regulations, and up to FSA Gold level by answering an additional 14 questions. The results of applying the Module can also be independently verified. Find out more about these possibilities here.

FSA Web App

What is the Farm Sustainability Assessment Web App?
The FSA Web App, SAI Platform’s online solution for the FSA, is exclusively available to member companies. The FSA Web App allows member companies to collect, manage and analyse all FSA-related information in a shared fashion with their upstream suppliers.
What are the benefits of using the FSA Web App instead of the freely downloadable excel version?
The FSA Web App is an online solution designed to make it easy to aggregate, analyse and share FSA information along the supply chain in a single system. Whether you are a farmer, a farm group coordinator or a buyer of agricultural ingredients, the FSA Web App empowers you to generate the insights you need to drive and demonstrate on-farm sustainability in your business. The FSA Web App enables Verification Bodies to tap into one central database for preparing and performing their audits.
Our company is concerned about working on a shared data platform. How do we make sure that the confidentiality of our data is well-protected when we use the FSA Web App?
The FSA Web App allows users to decide what information they share and with whom they share it. As a user, it is up to you to manage that through your settings. In addition, the FSA Web App runs on the servers of the International Trade Centre, a United Nations body with the highest standards in protecting data confidentiality.
How can I register as a user for the Farm Sustainability Assessment Web App?
Farmers can register for the FSA Web App free of charge. Representatives from SAI Platform member companies can get in touch to find out if their company already has an account or create a new account.