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.
To learn more about the project, visit its official
Olivia Riemer
Olivia Riemer
Research Associate
Polina Korneeva
Polina Korneeva
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