Performance Metrics


The challenges agriculture poses are well known. The sector covers 40 percent of the Earth’s surface area, produces up to 11 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, is the largest cause of deforestation and habitat loss and accounts for about 70 percent of the projected loss of terrestrial biodiversity.

Yet despite its outsized impact, the global agricultural system is still not adequately feeding the planet: 820 million people are undernourished and 9 percent of the world’s population is severely food-insecure. What is more, as the world’s population grows and demographics change, demands on agriculture will be exacerbated further.

Over the past three decades, as the negative environmental and social impacts of agricultural systems have become increasingly apparent, certification schemes have been implemented to try to promote farming methods that are more nourishing – or at least less damaging – for the planet and its people. These kinds of schemes, such as Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade International and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification, often rely on “conscious consumers” in wealthier markets being prepared to pay a higher premium for certified products.

Such schemes have served to raise awareness of environmental and social issues in supply chains, and provide benefits to numerous individuals, communities and landscapes across the globe. However, they have so far failed to adequately catalyze the widespread transformation in agricultural systems that is urgently required.

One reason for this is that certification schemes have failed to target the world’s poorest farmers. The bottom 25 percent of performers for any commodity produce 50 percent of the [environmental] impacts, but only 10 percent of the product. So if we are truly interested in increasing productivity and efficiency and reducing impacts, we need to work with the bottom, not the top – and most certification programs focus on working with the top. So we need to flip our thinking.

We need to think of biodiversity in terms of how species interact together, to capture water, light, nutrients, and how in doing this they provide services to society

Dr. Harold Mooney
Stanford biology professor, explorer, IPBES.

The Agricultural Landscapes Performance System (ALPS)

Data leads to information, then to knowledge, and finally to wisdom


Today, we have access to an incredible amount of data in agriculture. However, a glaring gap still remains in regard to the amount of agricultural wisdom available. Most of the 120 existing certification schemes are way too complicated and expensive for farmers and companies to get involved in. When we are inundated by so much data, the challenge then is to have all stakeholders jointly agree on the 3 main questions of:

Do we have the right data?

Are we analyzing it properly?

Are we using it to drive performance?

It is becoming increasingly critical to work with simplified criteria for measuring impact more accurately and effectively. Given the mounting challenges we face - from climate change, poverty, deforestation and human rights- we need a revolutionary system that transforms the way we define, monitor and implement a performance-enhancing system for sustainable agriculture and landscapes.

THE ALPS SOLUTION: Credible self-certification by local communities

To address this need, Resilient Landscapes has developed the new Agricultural Landscapes Performance System (ALPS), which is a universal, locally-monitored (with outside verification) method for assessing and promoting more resilient agricultural and landscape practices. ALPS seeks to solve current issues in agricultural and landscape supply chains and to base investment, production and consumption decisions on performance focusing on:

How to define performance

How to measure performance

How to drive performance


Conceived in 2017 in collaboration with a diverse range of international actors, ALPS aims to assess performance using five key metrics: productivity, profitability, environmental stewardship, social inclusion, and good governance, offering five to 10 indicators for each.



Environmental Stewardship

Social Inclusion

Good Governance

“With these common standards, it doesn’t matter whether you’re growing potatoes in Ireland, or vanilla in Madagascar, or palm oil in Malaysia, or soybeans in the United States: everybody will have the same small set of proxy metrics that we all agree and collect data on,” says Tony Simons, Executive Director of Resilient Landscapes and CIFOR-ICRAF.

Crucially, community members involved with ALPS will be trained to collect data, meaning that monitoring and adaptation can take place on an ongoing basis. This is a stark contrast to the current status quo of consultants who visit sites just once a year, parachuting in and out, which makes it difficult for them to assess the reality on the ground.

As a universal but adaptable system, to which extra metrics can be added as desired, ALPS will also prove extremely useful for national governments, particularly for things like reporting on Nationally Determined Contributions to the U.N. Paris Agreement on Climate Change (NDCs).

Jason Clay, Senior Vice-President for Markets at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), praised the ALPS’ focus on local realities and has signed on to be one of our lead partners for its implementation.

ALPS will focus on innovation and flexibility to ensure new areas of thinking – such as supporting new tools like green bonds and establishing new land use criteria. The ALPS framework will be applied to all Resilient Landscapes projects going forwards in an effort to ensure the highest return for both people and planet.


Trusted By

Resilient Landscapes is powered by CIFOR-ICRAF. Our mission is to connect private and public actors in co-beneficial landscapes; provide evidence-based business cases for nature-based solutions and green economy investments; leverage and de-risk performance-driven investments with combined financial, social and environmental returns.

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