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Demonstrating dairy’s positive impact from farm to table

The Dairy Stewardship Commitment

Alignment with SDGs


Jamie Jonker US-IDF • United States


The U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment (“Stewardship Commitment”) is U.S. dairy’s social responsibility pledge to consumers, customers and other stakeholders. Developed through the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy (“Innovation Center”), the Stewardship Commitment is a voluntary, stakeholder-aligned initiative to advance sustainability leadership across the U.S. dairy community. It is grounded in strong programs and standards focused on continuous improvement against shared social, environmental and economic priorities. 

Dairy cooperatives and processors that adopt the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment meet defined criteria for important areas like animal care, the environment and food safety and report in a transparent and meaningful way. They agree to work collaboratively with diverse stakeholders and follow a rigorous set of standards to demonstrate positive impact. On a broader scale, adopting companies support and contribute to U.S. dairy’s ability to track, aggregate and report on national progress.

Moving the wheel

The Innovation Center’s Dairy Sustainability Alliance® facilitates the collaborative, open and transparent process through which the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment was developed and continues to evolve. Comprised of over 100-member organizations and more than 350 professionals, Dairy Sustainability Alliance members convene on a regular basis to share knowledge and engage on issues and opportunities to accelerate progress and contribute to the long-term viability of the industry. 

Dairy Sustainability Alliance members include dairy cooperatives, processors, retailers, government, industry suppliers, dairy checkoff and civil society. A materiality assessment conducted in 2018-19 confirmed priorities reflected in the Stewardship Commitment and will help guide evolution of that Commitment over time. 

Today,  24 dairy cooperatives and companies (2/3 of U.S. milk production) have adopted the Stewardship Commitment, which draws upon globally recognized best practices and guidance in sustainability standards and report development, including those of the International Organization for Standardization, the Global Reporting Initiative, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, and CDP. Aligned with the Dairy Sustainability Framework Global Criteria, it contributes to the achievement of at least seven of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Access nutritious and culturally appropriate foods is a core component of sustainable nutrition and vital to achieving nutrition security.

History of success

The Stewardship Commitment, formally launched in late 2018, makes progress through a variety of programs, including:

  • FARM Animal Care, which in 2018 became the first livestock animal care program in the world to comply with International Organization for Standardization animal welfare requirements and guidance.
  • The Dairy Nourishes America initiative, which in partnership with Feeding America, increased distribution of dairy products to 41 million clients of 200 food banks in over 60,000 agencies. From 2016 to 2018, 750 million pounds of dairy were distributed in the Feeding America network.
  • The U.S. Dairy Traceability Guidelines, which has been voluntarily adopted by companies representing more than 80% of U.S. milk production. 

The future of the Stewardship Commitment

The Stewardship Commitment metric development and revision process is based on ISEAL principles. These metrics will evolve based on emerging priorities to support the dairy community at large. Future work includes:

  • A 2009 U.S. dairy voluntary goal to reduce GHG emissions intensity 25% by 2020 will be benchmarked by the end of 2019.
  • FARM Workforce Development will provide dairies across U.S. with guidance and best management practices around human resources (hiring, training and supervising workers) and worker health and safety. 
  • A nutrient management plan metric recently strengthened to specify documentation, implementation and maintenance will be added to FARM Environmental Stewardship program in 2019.