True Cost – From Costs to Benefits in Food and Farming

Exploring holistic accounting methodologies for the agrifood sector

This project brings together a broad network comprising businesses, non-governmental organisations, auditing firms, and scientists with the common goal of developing guidelines for a standardised method of True Cost Accounting (TCA) for the food and farming sectors.
The specific obectives of the project are to:
  • Change the way companies' performance is measured and valued;
  • Ensure that businesses factor in their social and environmental impacts in their decision-making processes;
  • Develop standardised impact measuring and reporting to allow businesses, investors, policy makers and consumers to make informed decisions.
The project first designed the TCA methodology by computing the true costs of production for agricultural products for a broad range of companies in the food and agribusiness sector. In a second phase, which is ongoing, the methodology is being tested through two pilot studies to assess its application at the farm level, as well as among processing companies. In total, more than 20 assessments are being carried out, covering 15 countries around the world. The assessments test diverse agro-food value chains, including tea, coffee, nuts, medical herbs, and mangoes.
During the third phase of the project, the TCA guidelines, as well as digital data collection infrastructure will be finalised.
The results of TCA assessments can be used in business reports. The application of the guidelines will also allow a more transparent and holistic comparison of business’ performance, and incentivise sustainable business models.
The theoretical foundations of True Cost Accounting were set by the landmark TEEBAgriFood study, which addressed the core theoretical issues and controversies underpinning the evaluation of the nexus between the agri-food sector, biodiversity and ecosystem services, and related externalities including human health impacts from agriculture on a global scale.
Project Name
True Cost – From Costs to Benefits in Food and Farming
Duration
2019-2022
To learn more about the project, visit its official

News & Blog Posts

True Cost Initiative launches standardised guidelines for the agrifood sector
Publication

True Cost Initiative launches standardised guidelines for the agrifood sector

Practical guidelines for the food and farming sector on impact measurement, valuation and reporting
Finding the ‘True Value’ of Food Can Drive Innovation Across Sectors
News

Finding the ‘True Value’ of Food Can Drive Innovation Across Sectors

How to drive change in sectors as disparate as climate, public health, and poverty reduction.
True Cost Accounting at COP 26: A new tool to support sustainable food systems transformation
Blog Post

True Cost Accounting at COP 26: A new tool to support sustainable food systems transformation

Showing the “hidden costs” of production and revealing the benefits of sustainable food systems
Counting the Hidden Costs of Food Adds Up to Real Progress
News

Counting the Hidden Costs of Food Adds Up to Real Progress

TMG director co-publishes opinion piece in Newsweek
Website Launch: True Cost – From Costs to Benefits in Food and Farming
News

Website Launch: True Cost – From Costs to Benefits in Food and Farming

TMG and partners launch a new website promoting the True Cost Initiative
Cheap food is expensive
Blog Post

Cheap food is expensive

Why the World Food Systems Summit must usher in a fundamental change to our food system

Publications

True Cost Accounting Agrifood Handbook

Technical Guide

True Cost Accounting Agrifood Handbook

Olivia Riemer, Sivan van Leerzem, Dr. Janine von Wolfersdorff and Gyde Wollesen

Practical guidelines for the food and farming sector on impact measurement, valuation and reporting

Mobilizing the Power and Potential of True Cost Accounting

Article

Mobilizing the Power and Potential of True Cost Accounting

Nadia El-Hage Scialabba, Carl Obst, Kathleen A. Merrigan, Alexander Müller

Concluding chapter: 'True Cost Accounting for Food - Balancing the Scale'

Social Capital in the Food Sector: A Brief for True Cost Accounting Considerations

Info Brief

Social Capital in the Food Sector: A Brief for True Cost Accounting Considerations

Olivia Riemer, Alexander Müller, Sebastian Hanss-Mirodone

The Brief provides an overview of the concept of social capital, how it is linked to food- and farming-related businesses, and why it determines business failure and success.

Organic Food's Value to Human Health

Info Brief

Organic Food's Value to Human Health

Michael Hamm, Olivia Riemer, Alexander Müller

This brief presents the current state of knowledge on the health impacts of organic versus conventionally produced food.

Human Health and the Food System: A Brief for True Cost Accounting Considerations

Info Brief

Human Health and the Food System: A Brief for True Cost Accounting Considerations

Michael Hamm, Olivia Riemer, Alexander Müller

This brief highlights the issues and opportunities regarding human health and the food system.

The future of agriculture and food: Evaluating the holistic costs and benefits

Article

The future of agriculture and food: Evaluating the holistic costs and benefits

Various Authors

Inadequacies of the current agriculture and food systems are recognised globally in the form of damages to environment and human health.

Videos

  • In Harmony with Humanity and Nature: How a Project in Southern India Creates New Perspectives

    An application of the True Cost Accounting methodology in India

  • True Cost - From Costs to Benefits in Food and Farming

    A short video presenting the "True Cost - From Costs to Benefits" in Food and Farming initiative

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