Founder of Sustainability Centre moving to an advisory role

  • National Newswatch

Work on the second version of the sustainability index is under way

Ottawa-David McInnes, who put a lot of behind the scenes work into founding the Centre of Agri-Food Benchmarking to chart the evolution of agriculture sustainability in Canada, will move to an advisory role with the organization after a new executive director is selected.

The Centre became part of the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI) in February, that McInnes is a former President and CEO of, following the release of the National Index on Agri-Food Performance, the product of four years of work by him and a broad coalition of farm and food groups collaborating on how to coordinate measuring agrifood sustainability from production to retail. The Centre now has 146 private and public partners.

“As the founder of this initiative, I started this work in 2020 with an eye to handing over the helm after reaching key milestones,” McInnes said in a statement. The Centre already has four years of funding lined up with the prospect of a fifth year.

Being part of CAPI will help accelerate progress on sustainability although the Centre will maintain a distinct brand and operating structure. Work now is underway to improve the Index by engaging coalition partners to produce Index 2.0, McInnes said. “Ensuring its relevance by meeting changing sustainability expectations is vital.”

The collaborative development of the Centre is gaining global visibility. “Collaboration is widely regarded as a key to tackle the combined challenges of the climate crisis, biodiversity threats and inequities facing societies worldwide. The model presents a leading method to enable change.”

The next Executive Director will build on the momentum behind agricultural sustainability by working with the producers, agri-businesses, food processors and retailers, provincial and federal governments, social, environmental and Indigenous NGOs, academia, financial institutions, technology and innovation organizations and many others that make up the Centre. “During this transition period, I will continue to advance the Centre’s work plan and will later assume an advisory role.”

Being transparent about the sector’s sustainability presents an enormous opportunity to add value in the marketplace and enhance societal trust, he said. “Thanks to the coalition’s engagement, the initiative could prove to be a key tool to respond to one of the most pressing issues facing humanity: producing food more sustainably and demonstrating it.”

The development of the Centre started with examining how sustainable is the agri-food sector and that has led to a globally novel approach with the publication of the National Index, McInnes said. Working with a small team, the new Executive Director will manage and evolve the Centre to ensure that the Index adds value to partners and aims for greater relevance with the broader food system.

The Centre maintains its own brand, website, and dedicated governance model to manage Centre business within the CAPI corporate structure and budget, but it benefits from sharing key resources and support from CAPI and the Executive Director reports to CAPI’s Managing Director.

A comprehensive plan to evolve and improve the Index now is underway. The Index is broadly responding to one of the most pressing issues facing humanity: producing food more sustainably and showing it. The Index plays its part in doing so by increasing transparency of Canada’s agri-food sector sustainability performance.

This news item was prepared for National Newawatch