True Cost Initiative

We are creating guidelines on how to assess and value the impacts of businesses in the food and farming sector as well as for coherent reporting of sustainability information in the annual reports of businesses under current accounting law. The main goal of the True Cost – From Costs to Benefits in Food and Farming initiative is to establish transparent and holistic reporting of businesses’ environmental, social and health impacts. The application of the guidelines in business will allow a more complete and objective comparison of businesses’ performance, and will set incentives to establish sustainable business models.

The guidelines will be accessible for free online in Spring 2022. 

The True Cost Accounting guidelines explain the methodology of measuring, valuing, and reporting sustainability issues in the food and agriculture sector

How is the TCA methodology developed?

The project combines a multi-stakeholder approach with a living lab application. In a first step experienced agronomists, nutritionists, accountants, food economists and impact consultants together develop a methodology to measure, value and report the environmental, social and health impacts of food and agribusinesses. In a second step the methodology is applied to real value chains. More than 20 assessments are conducted in order to test the developed methodology. 

We assess different types of plant-based products, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, tea and coffee, as well as more exotic agriproducts, such as medical herbs and essential oils.

The methodology is tested in collaboration with farmers, ranging from smallholder cooperatives to large scale farms, food processors and traders, and different departments from food businesses such as procurement, finance and sustainability. Living labs are performed in five continents including the countries: USA, Mexico, Argentina, Honduras, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Serbia, Austria, Hungary, Turkey, Egypt, Uganda, and India.

Based on the lessons from the living labs, the methodology is adapted to fit the reality of everyday business and undergoes an audit readiness check.

What is the added value of the guidelines?

Who can use the TCA guidelines?

Farmers and food businesses
Farmers and food businesses can assess and evaluate their impacts and risks, and use the guidelines for sustainability accounting and reporting. TCA provides transparency and clarity for customers, creditors and other stakeholders.

Financial institutions
Banks and other financial institutions can use TCA to compare the sustainability performance of businesses. TCA can be used to design investment and eligibility criteria which will help fund sustainable business models that take into account social, environmental and economic costs.

Researchers and NGOs
The guidelines represent a starting point for further development of the concept of TCA, and provide orientation for the development of the methodology for other industries. TCA can be used to develop ideas and possible pathways to sustainable food systems.
Insurance companies Insurance conditions, industry and business specific risks can be determined based on TCA.

Consultants and accountants
Consultants and accountants can use the guidelines to support businesses with the implementation of TCA, and base strategic business advice on the results.

Policy makers
TCA provides an entry point for impact-based subsidies. It is a starting point and inspiration for improving current accounting standards.

Do you have any questions about
the TCA guidelines?

True Cost Initiative

We are creating guidelines on how to assess and value the impacts of businesses in the food and farming sector as well as for coherent reporting of sustainability information in the annual reports of businesses under current accounting law.

The main goal of the True Cost – From Costs to Benefits in Food and Farming initiative is to establish transparent and holistic reporting of businesses’ environmental, social and health impacts. The application of the guidelines in business will allow a more complete and objective comparison of businesses’ performance, and will set incentives to establish sustainable business models.

The guidelines will be accessible for free online in Spring 2022. 

The True Cost Accounting guidelines explain the methodology of measuring, valuing, and reporting sustainability issues in the food and agriculture sector

How is the TCA methodology developed?

The project combines a multi-stakeholder approach with a living lab application. In a first step experienced agronomists, nutritionists, accountants, food economists and impact consultants together develop a methodology to measure, value and report the environmental, social and health impacts of food and agribusinesses. In a second step the methodology is applied to real value chains. More than 20 assessments are conducted in order to test the developed methodology. 

We assess different types of plant-based products, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, tea and coffee, as well as more exotic agriproducts, such as medical herbs and essential oils.

The methodology is tested in collaboration with farmers, ranging from smallholder cooperatives to large scale farms, food processors and traders, and different departments from food businesses such as procurement, finance and sustainability. Living labs are performed in five continents including the countries: USA, Mexico, Columbia, Argentina, Honduras, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Serbia, Austria, Hungary, Turkey, Egypt, Uganda, and India.

Based on the lessons from the living labs, the methodology is adapted to fit the reality of everyday business and undergoes an audit readiness check.

What is the added value of the guidelines?

Who can use the TCA guidelines?

Farmers and food businesses
Farmers and food businesses can assess and evaluate their impacts and risks, and use the guidelines for sustainability accounting and reporting. TCA provides transparency and clarity for customers, creditors and other stakeholders.

Financial institutions
Banks and other financial institutions can use TCA to compare the sustainability performance of businesses. TCA can be used to design investment and eligibility criteria which will help fund sustainable business models that take into account social, environmental and economic costs.

Researchers and NGOs
The guidelines represent a starting point for further development of the concept of TCA, and provide orientation for the development of the methodology for other industries. TCA can be used to develop ideas and possible pathways to sustainable food systems.
Insurance companies
Insurance conditions, industry and business specific risks can be determined based on TCA.

Consultants and accountants
Consultants and accountants can use the guidelines to support businesses with the implementation of TCA, and base strategic business advice on the results.

Policy makers
TCA provides an entry point for impact-based subsidies. It is a starting point and inspiration for improving current accounting standards.

Do you have any questions about the TCA guidelines?