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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2019

How well is farmers' social situation captured by sustainability assessment tools? A Swedish case study

Roos, E.; Fischer, K.; Tidaker, P.; Kallstrom, H. Nordstroem


Recent research indicates that sustainability assessment tools (SAT) for farms need to be contextually adapted to be acceptable and useful. Focusing specifically on social sustainability, this study sought to identify important aspects of relevance for Swedish (livestock) farmers' social situation and compare these aspects with social indicators used in three existing SATs (RISE, SAFA, IDEA). A survey revealed that social issues of key importance for the self-reported overall life satisfaction of Swedish livestock farmers are: having a good financial situation, having a similar standard of living as others, not experiencing too much stress, having meaningful work, having decent working hours, and having a desirable family situation. Of the three SATs evaluated, RISE appears best equipped to capture the social situation of Swedish farmers but does not fully address the aspect of finding work meaningful. SAFA and IDEA both fail to capture many aspects of importance for describing the social situation of Swedish farmers. We present a novel method for testing the relevance of social indicators for farmers in a specific context. Applying this method before choosing, applying, and adapting SATs for farm-level sustainability assessments would increase the relevance of the social sustainability dimension, but deeper stakeholder engagement than offered by our survey is needed.


Social sustainability; quality of life; social indicators; agriculture; indicators

Published in

International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology
2019, Volume: 26, number: 3, pages: 268-281