07 Jun 2023

FAQs: AIC's Sustainability Self-Assessment Framework



AIC's Sustainability Self-Assessment Framework has been designed to help Member and Participant businesses better understand the sustainability credentials of their operations.

The Framework complements the commitments made in AIC's Roadmap for a Sustainable Food Chain and has been developed by AIC through contacts, experiences and involvement in a diverse range of stakeholder forums.

There are a total of 47 indicators that are grouped under the nine headings of the Roadmap. 

Suggested signposting to indicators relevant to individual sectors is provided in subsequent slides before the Self-Assessment starts.

Introductory webinar

A webinar introducing the Sustainability Training and Self-Assessment Framework was hosted by AIC on 10 July 2023. Watch the webinar recording below.


What is the Self-Assessment Framework?

The AIC Sustainability Self-Assessment Framework has been designed to help Members better understand the sustainability credentials of their products, services and operations.

The Framework comprises of a series of indicator questions designed to assess the extent to which sustainability practices are incorporated into a Member business activity/area.

Alongside the indicators, we have referenced guidance relevant to measuring or assessing the area of sustainability relevant to each indicator, as well as provided contextual information as to why you may wish to consider individual indicators.

It is a self-assessment tool and therefore relies on the objective consideration of company activities against an indicator through a five-point scoring scale.

We would expect that only one self-assessment framework is completed per Member business and that the main focus should be on that business’s UK operations.

A precursor to completing the Framework is to have completed the Introduction to Sustainability for the Agri-Supply Industry training.

This ensures that all who complete the Framework have as a minimum the same baseline understanding of sustainability in relation to the agri-supply industry.

How does the Self-Assessment Framework relate to the AIC Roadmap for a Sustainable Food Chain?

The Framework complements the commitments made in the AIC Roadmap for a Sustainable Food Chain and has been developed by AIC through contacts, experiences and involvement in a diverse range of stakeholder forums.

The indicators in the Framework are grouped under the headings of the Roadmap for a common approach, against which businesses across all sectors can align.

How does a business assess itself against an indicator?

Having selected an indicator appropriate to your business, you shall assign a score from the five-point scoring scale based on how your company is addressing the requirement of the indicator.

Some supporting evidence needs to be provided to justify the score that has been assigned to that indicator.

Some indicators, such as those that fall under the Business and Social sections of the Framework, are compulsory for all businesses to respond to. The indicators that you select after these should be all those which relate to your business activities.

The scoring scale against which incremental change over time can be demonstrated is as follows:

  • Yes
  • To a large extent
  • To a small extent
  • Company commitment (such as Board approval for an activity/project), but no action
  • No

How will the data inputted into the Self-Assessment Framework be managed?

The Framework is being hosted via a secure web portal managed by a company called VBMS Ltd. AIC has worked with VBMS on numerous projects over many years, including hosting the FAR online training for core and CPD modules.

VBMS will hold the data that you provide in accessing and completing the Framework in accordance with its Privacy Policy.

AIC will have access to the data that is provided to VBMS for the purpose of:

  • Reporting the data that you provided back to the individual who provided it
  • Collating and sharing anonymised data with Member organisations to allow them to benchmark their performance cross-sector and cross-industry
  • Using anonymised data to demonstrate industry and sector sustainability performance to our external stakeholders
  • Identifying additional sustainability support, services and resources that Members may find useful

AIC may store data obtained from VBMS on its own secure cloud-based servers.

In presenting the Self-Assessment Framework and the examples within it, is AIC prescribing what activities business needs to undertake to be sustainable?

No - AIC has provided examples throughout the Framework which relate to commonly considered areas of sustainability and have provided guidance to relevant standardised/harmonised approaches.

AIC is not attempting to set the direction of sector/company activity unless there are regulations, sector agreements or assurance scheme standards that apply.

There may be other similar or related approaches outside of the examples provided which may be more appropriate ways of your business meeting an indicator.

How long will it take to complete the Self-Assessment Framework?

It is envisaged that it will take approximately two hours to complete the Framework. There are 47 indicator questions which may each take about a minute to consider how to score an indicator - this means this section could take more than three quarters of an hour on its own.

Reviewing how your business is meeting the indicator, deciding on your score for that indicator and identifying and providing suitable supporting information will be in addition to this time.

How often will I need to complete the Self-Assessment Framework?

The Framework can be completed as frequently as you like, although AIC recommends that it is completed on at least an annual basis so that incremental changes against the indicators can be tracked over time.

If you implement a significant sustainability activity in your business, it may be that you wish to use the Framework score sooner than the annual recommendation.

How much does the Self-Assessment Framework cost?

A nominal fee of £45 (excluding VAT) is being charged to cover the cost of hosting the Framework and the associated administration costs. 

This fee is payable to VBMS Ltd by credit or debit card at the time that you select the Framework from VBMS’s online store. You will receive a receipt for the payment from VBMS Ltd, not AIC.

Payment will load The Framework template onto your AIC portal dashboard, which is accessed using a VBMS log-in and will need to be set-up, via the VBMS website (see below for further details).

The fee will be charged each time you purchase a “clean” self-assessment framework from the VBMS store.

AIC is not in a position at the point of sale to be able to determine whether somebody has already purchased or completed the Framework for your organisation.

We therefore suggest that individual business’s assign a single point of contact responsible for compiling performance information and completing the Framework to avoid being charged more than once.

How do I access the Self-Assessment Framework?

To use the Framework, you will need to be provided with access to AIC’s Portal hosted on the VBMS website. To log in or register for an account, visit the Portal on the VBMS website.

First time users will need to register an account by clicking on the "Register now" option in the top right-hand corner of the screen. You will be asked to provide your email address and to set a password.

On the following screen you will need to enter your name and the organisation you work, which you will be able to select from a drop-down list.

This will create your own dashboard in AIC's Portal, and from here you will be able to purchase the Framework from the VBMS Store (icon in the banner at the top of the screen) by paying the nominal fee by credit or debit card.

Once payment has been received, the Framework will load onto your dashboard.

What do I receive once I have completed the Self-Assessment Framework?

You will receive a report of the indicators you have scored and the supporting evidence that you submitted via email within seven days of completing the Framework.

Anonymised sector and industry data trends will be compiled and reported separately once a sufficiently representative dataset has been collected.

How soon we are able to provide these reports is dependent on an appropriate proportion of a Sector’s Membership completing the Framework.

How do I get more information and help regarding the Self-Assessment Framework?

Please email any comments and queries about the Framework to [email protected].