What is the Dairy Sustainability Framework (DSF)?

The DSF is a monitoring and reporting framework that tracks the aggregated sustainability progress of the global dairy sector. Launched in 2013, it provides a universal platform for the sector to align, quantify and demonstrate the difference the sector is making as a result of a range of sustainability actions. It also provides the ability for organizations to connect and share existing activities with like-minded organizations allowing for cross-fertilization of ideas.

How did the DSF originate?

The DSF was the result of over 18 months of consultation and research undertaken by the GDAA in collaboration with a wide range of industry stakeholders. The objective in creating the DSF was to bring greater coherence and offer guidance on individual and collaborative action while allowing for continued innovation in approaches to address sustainability.

How was the DSF developed?

Using a highly collaborative approach, independent consultancy think-tank Sustainability led a globally focused independent project to review how the industry could effectively address the sustainability challenge. The outputs of the project were a recommendation that the sector should develop a framework for sustainability that aligned global activity while capturing existing initiatives, cater for large or small approaches on a global or regional basis and emphasize the requirement for continuous improvement. Following on from that came development of the 11 DSF sustainability criteria working with the University of Arkansas and in consultation with the membership.

How is the Dairy Sustainability Framework (DSF) different to other sustainability initiatives?

The DSF is a reporting and monitoring framework that allows the dairy sector to connect at a global level and align their sustainability efforts working towards a focused and common sustainability agenda.
It is very different to a standard that requires certain fixed criteria to be achieved. The DSF allows individual groups, regions or organizations to develop different initiatives and programs on a local basis that work towards addressing the Criteria and Strategic Intents of the framework. This approach also allows the dairy sector to develop initiatives that accommodate wherever they are on their sustainability journey. It is recognized that global dairy supply chains are at different developmental stages of their sustainability programs, and as such the framework is not there to judge or compare… It purely seeks to demonstrate continuous improvement via annual gathering the specific indicator metrics for each member’s prioritised criteria and aggregating that information to produce a progress report for the membership.

How can I engage with the DSF and where can I find the information?

This website is your first point of call. The DSF welcomes those working in the dairy value chain who wants to work together towards our vision to work together to continuously improve the sector’s ability to provide safe and nutritious products from healthy cattle, while: preserving natural resources and ensuring decent livelihoods across the industry. You will find details of the three categories of membership and level of commitment is required for each. Once you become a member you will be provided with access to the Members area, where further resources are available to you.

Who governs the DSF? What is my link to them?

The DSF governance model was developed through an iterative process and in consultation with internal and external stakeholder groups in order to ensure representation that fully reflects the diversity of the global dairy sector. The 12 DSF Governors consist of representatives from regional or global dairy associations and across the dairy value chain across all geographic regions. Members are linked to the Governors through the DSF Secretariat.

Are there different categories of membership?

Yes.  It is important that the dairy sector is recognized for its diversity and the wide range of organizations operating across the different levels of the value chain and as such we cannot expect the same outcomes from every organization/grouping that want to join us in this ambitious initiative. We have therefore established three categories of membership of the DSF:

Full Implementing Members:  Those who can realistically endorse the DSF Sustainability Criteria and Strategic Intents and implement initiatives to address these. E.g. farming groups, dairy manufacturers.

Aggregating Members:  The aggregation approach allows countries, regions or even small groupings of dairy sector organizations who are collaborating on sustainability programs to register and report through one coordinating organisation.

Affiliate Members:  Those close to or part of the sector who are able to endorse the DSF Sustainability Criteria and Strategic intents, though not in a position to directly implement sustainability initiatives address the Criteria for the dairy sector. E.g. research organizations.

Do I need to alter any programs that I already have in place?

Not necessarily – If sustainability programs are appropriate at the local level, the DSF is not seeking alteration of these. Importantly, new and existing initiatives need to follow the management process of ‘Plan, Do, Check, Adjust’, and will probably alter as a result.

You should, however, make sure that you embed the specific DSF indicator metric within these programs to enable progress to be reported to the DSF each year and that they are working towards the strategic intent of the specific criteria.

Does it cost to join?

No, currently joining to the DSF does not incur any cost. The DSF is funded by the Global Dairy Platform (GDP) which enables us to make membership available at no charge.  However depending on the category of membership, implementing and aggregating members are required to endorse the criteria and provide annual reporting information (see our Membership commitments).

How long does membership last?

The membership will be reviewed on an annual basis. In case of breach or other material cause, the agreement may be terminated by the DSF. Should a member with to voluntarily terminate its membership for any reason, this can be done at any time by writing to the DSF Governors, providing a minimum of 30 days’ notice.

What are my commitments if I do sign up?

The key commitments of Implementation Members are:

  • Endorsing the 11 key sustainability criteria and Strategic Intents
  • Undertaking a materiality assessment where prioritization of sustainability issues at a more local level (the prioritization process will support your key areas of focus locally and choice of DSF criteria to work on)
  • Implementing initiatives to address the prioritised criteria that work towards their strategic intent and collect the indicator to measure progress
  • Delivery of the Plan, Do, Check and Adjust actions on existing programs to ensure they are continually evolving and addressing the key areas of interest
  • Provision of annual reporting

Information on implementing the DSF, the process and expected timescales can be found in our support document the DSF Implementation Guide for new members (available to download in the DSF Members Area or contact the DSF Secretariat).

What does “signing up” actually mean?

By ‘signing up’, you are agreeing to collaborate with the global dairy sector in addressing the key sustainability criteria you prioritise (and others if pertinent on a local basis).

The DSF wants to ensure that those who join are genuinely committed to helping us demonstrate dairy’s positive contribution to the sustainability challenge and, importantly, quantify our continuous improvement.

How does the DSF contribute to a more sustainable dairy sector?

The DSF is a resource that creates the opportunity to collaborate and align global sustainability efforts under one ‘umbrella’ thus enabling and demonstrating a coordinated approach at both a local and global level.  Annual reporting of the aggregated progress across 11 sustainability criteria is published to demonstrate how the global dairy sector is progressing.  Other aspects offer the opportunity for members to network, gain knowledge, share and exchange information on sustainability projects at webinars, Community of Interest groups, through case studies and at the DSF Annual Members meeting.

Is the framework ready to be used regardless of local/national priorities?

Yes. The process of implementation is straightforward. Participants endorse the vision and then prioritize the eleven global criteria to represent the priorities for their scope of operations. Once this has been completed, participants are required to design and implement activities on the ground that will also capture the required indicator metric for annual reporting to the DSF.

What do I need to do to report and how often?

The details of what we expect from Implementing and Aggregating members is detailed in our DSF Implementation Guide provided to all new Members. Essentially reporting is annual with a deadline of 31 March each year. A reporting spreadsheet is provided to all Implementing and Aggregating Members in late February/early March which they are required to complete and return to the DSF by 31 March. The spreadsheet gathers an update on company information (farm numbers, cow numbers, milk volume processed etc), information on which DSF criteria have been prioritised, and indicator metrics for the Information provided by the membership will be integrated in a database managed by the DSF and will then be used to report in an aggregated form to demonstrate the progress of the Framework.

Aggregating Members are also required to provide three examples of sustainability projects that they or the organisations they aggregate for are willing to share. The DSF provides a template to gather the information to develop into a case study.  Case studies provide Members with the opportunity to show case their excellent efforts whilst inspiring others across the world to try new elements in their own practices.

What is reported by the DSF?

Information provided by the membership is aggregated by the DSF and is then used to report once a year to demonstrate the progress of the Framework. The latest DSF Members reporting can be found on our website under What we do/annual reporting.  As each Member’s reporting sheet is personalised to their organisation, pre-populated with the information reported in the previous year alongside the space for reporting the current year’s data.  In this way, Members are able to provide a brief commentary if a figure has increased or decreased significantly, which assists the DSF in understanding changes that may later be reflected in the aggregated data.

The DSF is using case study materials provided by Members to profile individual initiatives at various opportunities. Permission from the initiative ‘owner’ will always be sought prior to public release.

How is DSF reporting linked to the Sustainable Dairy Partnership (SDP)?

Essentially the DSF is pre-competitive and members report the indicator metrics they have prioritised from their materiality assessment of the 11 criteria.  The SDP is in the commercial space and will build on this information and ask for additional reporting.  There is no data sharing of member reporting between DSF and SDP. More information on this can be found on our website

What is the connection between DSF and SAI Platform?

Recognising that the DSF framework model could also contribute value in the commercial space and to negate the need for developing an additional program for dairy sustainability at this level, the DSF collaborated with the SAI Platform Dairy Working Group to explore the opportunity to take the DSF model, its associated processes and commitments and develop an appropriate resource for use in the B2B space.

The Sustainable Dairy Partnership (SDP) builds on the Dairy Sustainability Framework (DSF) by requiring SDP users to join the DSF at Implementing Member level and fulfil the associated commitments.

The Director General of SAI Platform is one of the DSF Governors.