Alentejo Olive Oil Sustainability Program near to conclude sustainability benchmark, pioneer at international level

Last Tuesday, December 6th, olive and olive oil producers, together with OLIVUM (Association of Olive Growers and Oil mills of Portugal), met with the University of Évora, to validate the first version of the reference tool to be produced under the project, thus ensuring a demanding and ambitious tool, but credible and adapted to reality at the same time.

The Alentejo Olive Oil Sustainability Program (PSAA), a project led by OLIVUM (Associação de Olivicultores e Lagares de Portugal), started in April with the aim of recognizing, strengthening, and enhancing the environmental, social, economic, and cultural performance of the olive-growing sector.

In order to fulfill its goal, the project committed itself to the development of a sustainability benchmark, thought out and designed according to a co-creative approach, involving members of academia, olive and olive oil producers, and other members of the value chain, in the whole process. This internationally pioneering benchmark identifies a set of primary and secondary areas of intervention, with a set of associated criteria critical to determining the sustainable performance of olive production. The criteria are leveled according to compliance with good practices, so that it is possible to frame and classify the producer’s performance in each area of intervention, allowing the producer to understand not only where he is, but also how far he can go.

In an initial phase, the PSAA gathered a set of pilot producers interested in participating in the development of the reference system, contributing with the pragmatic vision of those in the field. With the group of producers formalized, the project started to dynamize debate sessions, in which a set of pressing issues and concerns associated with olive production were expressed and analyzed, which made the structuring intervention areas of the referential effective.

With the intervention areas legitimized, the University of Évora, as the project’s partner entity, assigns them a set of evaluation criteria. Each criterion allows the classification of the producer according to four levels of sustainability – pre-initial, initial, intermediate, and developed – a classification that depends on the compliance or non-compliance with a given number of good practices assigned to each of the levels.

After the identification of the criteria and their leveling, the PSAA proceeded to validate them with the pilot producers.

Last Tuesday, December 6th, the pilot producers met with the project team (OLIVUM and Évora University), in the Alentejo Science and Technology Park, in Évora, to discuss the criteria and levels proposed for the benchmark, in order to adjust what is intended to be a demanding and ambitious tool, but simultaneously credible and adapted to reality. The pilot producers were invited to have a preliminary reading of the proposed criteria and levels and consequent self-assessment, allowing for a rich and pertinent discussion. During the ten-hour session, the following areas of intervention were discussed: human resources, water management, energy efficiency, waste and surplus management, disease and pest management, and soil management.

The meeting allowed for an in-depth and widely participated discussion, guaranteeing ambitious evaluation criteria and international benchmarks for sustainable olive production.

The session put into effect once again the values of the PSAA, cooperation, translated into the co-creation approach, transparency, through the contribution of each producer, and credibility, in the requirement and rigor desired for the program.

With the validation of the primary intervention areas, the PSAA will continue working on the sustainability benchmark, with the completion and validation of the secondary intervention areas and the weighting of each criterion. Once completed, the benchmark will be introduced in a digital application, so that each producer can do a self-assessment, getting to know their sustainability performance and continuous improvement plan.

December 12, 2022

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