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‘Milieukeur’ key to transparency of sustainable agriculture

08 September 2008

Sustainability is a trend, also in agriculture. Organic farmers are rewarded in the form of tax benefits, subsidies and higher prices for their products. There are also farmers who develop sustainable initiatives but who aren’t organic. How can you make this sustainability transparent? The Dutch ecolabel ‘Milieukeur’, the quality mark of the Milieukeur Foundation (SMK), could be the key to sustainability certification for extensive agriculture. This is the result of research by the Economics and Business Science Shop of the University of Groningen, commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV).

Business Studies student Louis Feitsma researched how sustainability in extensive agriculture can be made transparent. First, he designed a number of criteria, including: does the certification scheme concentrate on certifying primary agricultural production and is sustainability by definition organic or organic dynamic? Of the ten institutions examined, Global GAP and the Milieukeur Foundation appear to match the criteria best.  

Starting point is sustainable production

Global GAP concentrates primarily on guaranteeing food safety. This can be a good starting point for a sustainable business. ‘Milieukeur’ takes sustainable production as its starting point. Global GAP and ‘Milieukeur’ were also compared with regard to content to see how transparency could be achieved. Feitsma investigated a total of 52 points. He examined certification regulations such as is there a fertilization plan and does the business use green energy? Eventually, ‘Milieukeur’ turned out to be the most suitable to ensure transparency in extensive agriculture.  

Benchmark outside agriculture too

Feitsma also conducted a benchmark study of sustainability certification outside extensive agriculture. He compared the certification of sustainable forests, palm oil, soya and tropical rainforests. All of the institutions attach great value to the social embedment of their systems. What is noticeable is that little attention is paid to the sustainability of machines, buildings and infrastructure used during the production process.  

More information

- Information about the research: Ms Tamara Slief, coordinator of the Economics & Business Science Shop, tel. + 31 050 363 37 95, e-mail

- Report details: Louis Feitsma, ‘Duurzaam maar niet biologisch. Certificeren van duurzaamheid in de grondgebonden landbouw’ [Sustainable but not organic. Certification of sustainability in extensive agriculture], EC 184, Groningen : Economics and Business Science Shop, University of Groningen, 2008.

Last modified:30 November 2017 4.12 p.m.

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