Alison Bailey1, Jacob Kambuta1, Thomas Perrier1

1Lincoln University



In recent years, the concept of sustainability has been a feature in agricultural policy discussions. In this context it is important to understand the rationale of farmer’s decisions in relation to the dimensions of sustainability – economic, social, and environmental. The aim of this project was to design a framework to determine the attitudes of individual dairy farmers in terms of financial and environmental management, and social responsibility.

The literature on indicators of sustainability for agriculture were reviewed. Selected indicators identified in the literature were then applied as the three sustainability pillars: economic, social and environmental in a two-stage interview process. Scoping interviews were conducted to finalise relevant indicators before a wider interview process based on the Analytic Hierarchy Process was undertaken.

The results show that social responsibility is a key factor, encompassing both an individual’s own work-life balance, but more importantly the positive management of employees. Profitability, evidenced through system resilience and productivity, is also a key driver of a farmers’ business. Protecting the environment is a necessity understood by farmers, in terms of both reducing detrimental environmental impact and to a lesser extent enhancing the wider environmental landscape.


Dr Alison Bailey is currently Professor of Farm Management at Lincoln University, New Zealand. She studied at Aberystwyth University, Wales, and worked at SRUC in Edinburgh, Cranfield University and the University of Reading before moving to New Zealand. Her research focuses on the analysis of agricultural production systems encompassing: (i) the financial and economic analyses of the impact on farm productivity of alternative farming systems, technology adoption and agri-environment policy, and (ii) the investigation of farmer decision making processes and motivations particularly associated with different farming systems and agri-environment management.

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