SCOPE digital tool can increase the value of data used to assess agricultural production and environmental outcomes

March 27, 2024
Field with sun in background.

The Council of the European Union (EU) recently approved the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) intended to ensure that businesses address adverse impacts of their actions, including in their value chains inside and outside of Europe. The CSDDD will require companies to take responsibility for their environmental and social impacts, as well as those of their suppliers. Now headed to the European Parliament for approval, the CSDDD will have a synergetic relationship with the reporting requirements of the EU’s existing Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD).

In a recently published white paper, lead author Derric Pennington, senior sustainability scientist in the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), and his co-authors assess how a digital tool called the SCOPE (Sustainable Commodity Optimization and Performance Evaluation) Geodesign tool could be used for the reporting requirements of both the CSRD and the CSDDD.

The white paper, “Assessing Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Relating to Adverse Environmental Impacts from Agricultural Value Chains,” is for people interested in increasing the value and integrity of data and in assessing the potential impacts of policy decisions in terms of agricultural production and environmental outcomes. 

What is SCOPE? 

Derric Pennington
Derric Pennington

As Pennington explains, the beta version of SCOPE considers potential global and regional environmental outcomes from compliance with voluntary market-led initiatives (VMI) for sustainable agriculture production. “Currently, SCOPE has been applied to global VMI for sugarcane and Bonsucro, the global sustainability platform for sugarcane” he said. According to Pennington, data inputs on crop yields and production area are based on remotely-sensed and jurisdictional census data and public reports. “Our results illustrate the magnitude and directional impacts of parcel-level compliance with VMI standard indicators,” he said. “These results can be used to inform practice adoption, sourcing strategy, investments, and public regulatory policies that also align with CSRD and CSDDD requirements.”

SCOPE provides an intuitive, web-based interface that can be used to inform the planning and evaluation of more sustainable land use across sectors, including certification bodies, corporations, NGOS, and governments. It can be used to define performance-based standards at the local and landscape level by assessing potential outcomes related to commodity production, including total production, water availability and quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and land conversion. “SCOPE can provide important information to certification stakeholders on how an area could perform, or is performing, against a standard at the local, landscape, or jurisdictional level,” said Pennington, noting that SCOPE uses spatially explicit crop yield and extent data. Current and revised datasets, available at EarthStat, are computed with national, state, and country level agricultural census statistics. 

“Versions of SCOPE have also been developed for oil palm and rubber, and consider VMI scenarios based on RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) and GPSNR (Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber), respectively,” said Pennington. “SCOPE could be applied to many more cropping systems in the future, and if coupled with macroeconomic models, SCOPE could be used to explore effects from indirect land use such as spillover and leakage.”

The project was made possible by grants from the ISEAL Innovation Fund, which is supported by Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), University of Minnesota Informatics Institute, University of Minnesota CFANS, Bonsucro, Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, Tetra Pak, PepsiCo, and Diageo.