Deputy Director


Kerstin Martens
Institute of Farm Economics

Bundesallee 63
38116 Braunschweig
Phone: +49 531 596 5102
Fax: +49 531 596 5199

Dairy Sustainability Tool“: Implementation and feasibility of a sector-specific concept for the sustainable development of dairy production in Germany


Melkbecher (c) Landesvereinigung der Milchwirtschaft Niedersachsen e.V.
(© Landesvereinigung der Milchwirtschaft Niedersachsen e.V.)

Sustainability is gaining more and more importance in the production, processing and marketing of food, at national and international level. This also applies to the German dairy industry and its international competitiveness.

Background and Objective

Sustainability is increasingly becoming a specific requirement for the production, processing and marketing of food. Internationally and nationally, consumers, society, food retailers and food companies want to know from the German dairy industry: how sustainable is your milk produced? However, the integration of dairy farms in (dairy processor-specific) sustainability concepts poses particular challenges: on the one hand, a large number of dairy farms, some with very different production conditions, must be taken into account. On the other hand, a very broad range of sustainability aspects covering the fields of economy, ecology, social issues and animal welfare have to be recorded on dairy farm level.

Against this background an initial concept for a so-called “Dairy Sustainability Tool” was developed by the Thünen Institute of Farm Economics together with the QM Milch e. V., the project office Land und Markt and different actors in the dairy industry, building on two previous sustainability projects in Lower-Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein. The tool consists of a questionnaire for measuring 84 sustainability criteria, factsheets with explanations (background and status-quo) of every sustainability criteria and their respective ratings, a web-based questionnaire and a database. The “Dairy Sustainability Tool” serves as a basic tool for an initial illustration of sustainability aspects on dairy farm level. It can be seen as a starting point to create awareness for a more sustainable development among a large number of dairy farms and as an instrument for a continuous learning and development process.

The overall objective of the project was to put the “Dairy Sustainability Tool” in practice on a large scale for the first time, to check its feasibility and recognition at all stages of the value chain, and furthermore to develop the tool based on the knowledge gained. As a result there should be an outwardly transparent industry solution for the sustainable development of dairy production in Germany, which is suitable for a wider successful dissemination.

The project was carried out in cooperation with QM-Milch e. V. and the project office Land und Markt. The Landeskontrollverband North Rhine-Westphalia (database) was also involved. 34 dairy processors varying in size and orientation and one milk producer organisation were participating in the pilot project.


Project activities included:

  1. Introducing and testing the “Dairy Sustainability Tool“: The dairy processors surveyed their milk producers with the questionnaire of the "Dairy Sustainability Tool". Usually, milk producers themselves entered the data into the central database using the web-based questionnaire. Afterwards, data was checked for plausibility and analysed by the Thünen Institute. Each dairy processor received a comprehensive report on the results. Additionally, results were presented internally to the dairy processor. Together, the facts about the status quo were examined and discussed, goals for the further development of sustainable dairy production were formulated and possible measures for implementation were developed. In addition to the reports for the individual dairy processors, there were annual analyses of all the data, as well as in-depth scientific analyses of the data.
  2. Checking the international connectivity of the "Dairy Sustainability Tool": Within a stakeholder analysis, the sustainability concepts of international initiatives and selected dairy processors in the Netherlands, Ireland and New Zealand were examined. The aim was to investigate national and international sustainability activities at the level of the dairy industry in order to be able to situate the "Dairy Sustainability Tool" within a national and international context and to make recommendations for the further development of the tool.
  3. Examining the practicability and acceptance of the "Dairy Sustainability Tool": In an evaluation the perspectives of the participating dairy factories and their milk producers as well as retailers, processing industry, science and NGOs on the so far implemented concept and the associated activities will be examined. These results will be considered in the revision of the tool.
  4. Developing a future-proof concept: For the further development of the "Dairy Sustainability Tool", workshops were held with external participants from science and consulting as well as representatives of social stakeholders. Based on these workshops and all other project modules, the various components of the module were revised.
Components of sustainability module milk

Data and Methods

The data were collected by means of a written (online-based) questionnaire. The evaluation of the data for the dairy processors was mainly descriptive. Multivariate statistical methods were also used for the in-depth scientific analyses. We also applied qualitative methods (group discussions, expert discussions) as part of the evaluation and stakeholder analysis.


Links and Downloads


Involved Thünen-Partners

Involved external Thünen-Partners

  • Land und Markt
    (Hamburg, Deutschland)
  • QM-Milch e.V.
    (Berlin, Deutschland)
  • Landeskontrollverband Nordrhein-Westfalen e.V. (LKV NRW)
    (Krefeld, Deutschland)

Involved external Thünen-Partners

  • Dr. Heike Kuhnert
    Land und Markt
    (Hamburg, Deutschland)
  • QM-Milch e.V.
    (Berlin, Deutschland)
  • Landeskontrollverband Nordrhein-Westfalen
    (LKV NRW) (Krefeld, Deutschland)

Funding Body

  • Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE)
    (national, öffentlich)


4.2017 - 8.2020

More Information

Projekt type:
Project funding number: 2819108316
Funding program: Innovationsförderung
Project status: finished

Publications to the project

Results 1 - 10 of 20

Begin   back   next   end

  1. Lindena T, Claus A-S, Johns J, Nieberg H (2020) "QM-Nachhaltigkeitsmodul Milch" - es geht weiter! Ausgewählte Ergebnisse nach 3 Jahren Pilotphase [online]. Braunschweig: Thünen-Institut für Betriebswirtschaft, zu finden in <> [zitiert am 09.11.2020]
    pdf document (limited accessibility) 5556 kb
  2. Kuhnert H, Lindena T (2020) Alles gleich "grün"? Elite(4):24-26
  3. Lindena T, Johns J (2020) Animal Welfare on 7,297 German Dairy Farms: Results of the pilot study of the "QM-Dairy Sustainability Tool" [online]. IDF Anim Health Rep(14):6-8, zu finden in <> [zitiert am 05.11.2020]
  4. Lindena T, Johns J (2020) Auf Tierwohl für Milchvieh achten. Bauernzeitg 61(38):40-42
  5. Claus A-S, Lindena T, Heuer J (2020) Pilotprojekt "Nachhaltigkeitsmodul Milch" : 7 Ergebnisberichte zu Erzeugerbefragungen der im Projekt teilnehmenden Molkereien [Nicht veröffentlicht]. Braunschweig: Thünen-Institut für Betriebswirtschaft
  6. Lindena T, Claus A-S, Johns J, Heuer J (2020) Pilotprojekt "Nachhaltigkeitsmodul Milch" : Ergebnisse der Erzeugerbefragungen aller teilnehmenden Molkereien - Gesamtauswertung [Nicht veröffentlicht]. Braunschweig: Thünen-Institut für Betriebswirtschaft
  7. Lindena T, Johns J (2020) QM-Nachhaltigkeitsmodul Milch: Start in Phase 2. Top Agrar 49(9):R6-R8
  8. Lassen B, Lindena T, Claus A-S (2019) 5000 Milchbauern im Nachhaltigkeits-Check. Top Agrar 48(2):R6-R8
  9. Lindena T (2019) Nachhaltigkeit als Produktionsfaktor. DLG Mitt(12):46-49
  10. Lassen B, Lindena T, Claus A-S (2019) Nachhaltigkeitsmodul Milch - Halbzeitbilanz. Dt Bauern Korrespondenz(3):15

Results 1 - 10 of 20

Begin   back   next   end