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 more than 60 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 is 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 is carried out in cooperation with QM-Milch e. V. and the project office Land und Markt. The Landeskontrollverband North Rhine-Westphalia (database) is also involved. 34 dairy processors varying in size and orientation are participating in the pilot project.




Project activities will include:

  1. Introducing and testing the “Dairy Sustainability Tool“
    The dairy processors interview their milk producers with the questionnaire of the "Dairy Sustainability Tool". Usually, milk producers themselves enter the data into the central database using the web-based questionnaire. Afterwards, data will be checked for plausibility and analysed by the Thünen Institute. Each dairy processor receives a comprehensive report on the results. Additionally, results are presented internally to the dairy processor. Together, the facts about the status quo are examined and discussed, goals for the further development of sustainable dairy production are formulated and possible measures for implementation are developed. In addition to the reports for the individual dairy processors, there will be annual analyses of all the data, as well as in-depth scientific analyses of the data. Among other things, it will be investigated whether there are connections between farm types or socio-economic characteristics and selected sustainability criteria.
  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 will be examined.
    The aim is 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.
  1. 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.
  2. Developing a future-proof concept:
    For the further development of the "Dairy Sustainability Tool", workshops will be 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 will be revised.
Components of sustainability module milk

Data and Methods

The data is collected by means of a written (online-based) questionnaire. The evaluation of the data for the dairy processors is mainly descriptive. Multivariate statistical methods are also used for the in-depth scientific analyses. We also apply 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 (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: ongoing

Publications to the project

Results 6 - 10 of 10

Begin   back   next   end

  1. Claus A-S, Lindena T, Heuer J (2018) Pilotprojekt "Nachhaltigkeitsmodul Milch" : über 30 Ergebnisberichte zu Erzeugerbefragungen der im Projekt teilnehmenden Molkereien [Nicht veröffentlicht]. Braunschweig: Thünen-Institut für Betriebswirtschaft
  2. Lindena T, Flint L, Kuhnert H, Lassen B, Nieberg H (2017) Development of a monitoring tool for measuring and validating the sustainability of dairy farms. In: Jong IC, Koene P (eds) Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on the Assessment of Animal Welfare at Farm and Group Level : WAFL 2017 ; Ede, The Netherlands ; September 5-8, 2017. Wageningen: Wageningen Academic Publ, p 46
  3. Flint L, Kuhnert H, Laggner B, Lassen B, Nieberg H, Strohm R (2016) Prozess nachhaltige Milcherzeugung - Entwicklung eines Nachhaltigkeitsmoduls zur Erfassung und Bewertung von Nachhaltigkeitskriterien auf milchviehhaltenden Betrieben. Braunschweig: Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, 225 p, Thünen Working Paper 54, DOI:10.3220/WP1459335513000
    pdf document (limited accessibility) 1674 kb
  4. Lassen B, Nieberg H, Kuhnert H, Sanders J, Schleenbecker R (2015) Status quo-Analyse ausgewählter Nachhaltigkeitsaspekte der Milcherzeugung in Schleswig-Holstein. Braunschweig: Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, 114 p, Thünen Working Paper 43, DOI:10.3220/WP1439978006000
    pdf document (limited accessibility) 973 kb
  5. Lassen B, Nieberg H, Kuhnert H, Sanders J, Schleenbecker R (2014) Status-quo Analyse ausgewählter Nachhaltigkeitsaspekte der Milcherzeugung in Niedersachsen. Braunschweig: Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, 116 p, Thünen Working Paper 28, DOI:10.3220/WP_28_2014
    pdf document (limited accessibility) 1761 kb

Results 6 - 10 of 10

Begin   back   next   end