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  • Alexandra Dorison

IFA’s Sustainable Fertilizer Academy

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

In an era where businesses are increasingly relied upon to address environmental and social challenges, the International Fertilizer Association (IFA) took a pioneering role by offering a distinctive e-learning experience through the Sustainable Fertilizer Academy.

This groundbreaking project was a finalist in the impact category at the ESAE Association Awards 2023.

The International Fertilizer Association (IFA) and its members are passionate about sustainability as an opportunity, not just a challenge. Corporations have a significant role to play in shaping sustainable development goals (SDGs).

There are increasing public expectations that businesses will lead the way in tackling critical environmental and social issues, however, it’s not always obvious where to turn to for clear, professional, and practical information about sustainability. IFA and its members recognised that there was no online educational training linking sustainability to the fertilizer sector. Sustainability is an integral part of any organisation’s purpose and strategy. Thus, the objective of the SFA is to be a one-stop shop for IFA’s 400 members in 70 countries to get a full overview of sustainability in the fertilizer industry, providing sustainability knowledge across the full spectrum of sourcing, production, and use of fertilizers.

Through the Sustainable Fertilizer Academy (SFA), IFA provides a unique e-learning experience and network for fertilizer industry professionals to learn about sustainability – from sourcing to production to the use of fertilizers on the farm – and to enable them to apply their learning to the real-world challenges facing us all today. IFA formed a working group of over 20 members companies from around the world to determine the curriculum of the program. In terms of delivery strategy, the SFA was developed in one year as an e-learning platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on international travel.

The SFA was created in conjunction with the IFA 2030 strategy scenarios and inspired by the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. The SFA’s establishment in September 2021 was one of the first member-approved actions following the implementation of IFA's Sustainability Committee in mid-2021.

The SFA includes 32 classes divided between Levels 1 and 2 and is taught by 45 subject matter experts internationally. Level 1 (Introductory) provides the basics of sustainability within the fertilizer industry. Level 2 (Intermediate) is more advanced and is further divided into two groups: product stewardship (sustainability within fertilizer production) and nutrient stewardship (sustainability within nutrient use and application). Each class includes an introduction, a teacher profile, a video lecture, downloadable PowerPoint slides, and a short quiz. There are final exams at the end of each Level, and once they have passed, students receive either an Expert (Level 1) or Leader (Level 2) certificate from IFA. At the moment, there have been 52 official graduates from 11 different countries.

Originally exclusive to IFA members, however due to increased demand, in early 2023, the SFA was opened to everyone. This opened the doors for the development of various offerings. One of them is an "À la Carte" offering, a personalized learning experience that provides selected SFA classes for target audiences. At the moment, this offering is being created with the Brazilian government and various Brazilian universities. Different audiences have been identified (eg. agronomists, university students, policymakers, and government officials), and SFA classes have been chosen for each in regard to their educational and professional background. These classes will be provided to each audience, alongside the creation of additional local-specific classes (eg. tropical agriculture), and all classes will have Portuguese subtitles to facilitate language accessibility. This project is envisioned to be recreated with different audiences in Africa and in Turkey. Other offerings include a company access option, which facilitates the registration of large groups of employees, to obtain immediate access to SFA class content. We hope that these offerings will aid in the sustainability transition for the fertilizer industry.


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