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Are Local Food Chains More Sustainable than Global Food Chains? Considerations for Assessment

Author

Listed:
  • Gianluca Brunori

    () (Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment, University of Pisa, 56124 Pisa, Italy)

  • Francesca Galli

    () (Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment, University of Pisa, 56124 Pisa, Italy)

  • Dominique Barjolle

    () (Sustainable Agroecosystems Group, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich ETH, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland)

  • Rudolf Van Broekhuizen

    () (Rural Sociology Group, Wageningen University, 6708 PB Wageningen, The Netherlands)

  • Luca Colombo

    () (Fondazione Italiana per la Ricerca in Agricoltura Biologica e Biodinamica, 00153 Roma, Italy)

  • Mario Giampietro

    () (Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA), 08010 Barcelona, Spain
    Spain and Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain)

  • James Kirwan

    () (Countryside and Community Research Institute, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham GL50 2RH, UK)

  • Tim Lang

    () (Centre for Food Policy, City University, London EC1V 0HB, UK)

  • Erik Mathijs

    () (Division of Bioeconomics, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, KU Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium)

  • Damian Maye

    () (Spain and Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain)

  • Kees De Roest

    () (Centro Ricerche Produzioni Animali S.p.A.—C.R.P.A. S.p.A., 42121 Reggio Emilia, Italy)

  • Carin Rougoor

    () (Centre for Agriculture and Environment Foundation (CLM), 4104 BA Culemborg, The Netherlands)

  • Jana Schwarz

    () (Division of Bioeconomics, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, KU Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium)

  • Emilia Schmitt

    () (Sustainable Agroecosystems Group, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich ETH, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland)

  • Julie Smith

    () (Centre for Food Policy, City University, London EC1V 0HB, UK)

  • Zaklina Stojanovic

    () (Faculty of Economics, University of Belgrade, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia)

  • Talis Tisenkopfs

    () (Baltic Studies Centre, LV1014 Riga, Latvia)

  • Jean-Marc Touzard

    () (Inra, UMR Innovation, 34060 Montpellier, France)

Abstract

This paper summarizes the main findings of the GLAMUR project which starts with an apparently simple question: is “local” more sustainable than “global”? Sustainability assessment is framed within a post-normal science perspective, advocating the integration of public deliberation and scientific research. The assessment spans 39 local, intermediate and global supply chain case studies across different commodities and countries. Assessment criteria cover environmental, economic, social, health and ethical sustainability dimensions. A closer view of the food system demonstrates a highly dynamic local–global continuum where actors, while adapting to a changing environment, establish multiple relations and animate several chain configurations. The evidence suggests caution when comparing “local” and “global” chains, especially when using the outcomes of the comparison in decision-making. Supply chains are analytical constructs that necessarily—and arbitrarily—are confined by system boundaries, isolating a set of elements from an interconnected whole. Even consolidated approaches, such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), assess only a part of sustainability attributes, and the interpretation may be controversial. Many sustainability attributes are not yet measurable and “hard” methodologies need to be complemented by “soft” methodologies which are at least able to identify critical issues and trade-offs. Aware of these limitations, our research shows that comparing local and global chains, with the necessary caution, can help overcome a priori positions that so far have characterized the debate between “localists” and “globalists”. At firm level, comparison between “local” and “global” chains could be useful to identify best practices, benchmarks, critical points, and errors to avoid. As sustainability is not a status to achieve, but a never-ending process, comparison and deliberation can be the basis of a “reflexive governance” of food chains.

Suggested Citation

  • Gianluca Brunori & Francesca Galli & Dominique Barjolle & Rudolf Van Broekhuizen & Luca Colombo & Mario Giampietro & James Kirwan & Tim Lang & Erik Mathijs & Damian Maye & Kees De Roest & Carin Rougoo, 2016. "Are Local Food Chains More Sustainable than Global Food Chains? Considerations for Assessment," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(5), pages 1-27, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:8:y:2016:i:5:p:449-:d:69582
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    1. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:10:p:3481-:d:172663 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:11:p:1987-:d:117050 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Federica Monaco & Ingo Zasada & Dirk Wascher & Matjaž Glavan & Marina Pintar & Ulrich Schmutz & Chiara Mazzocchi & Stefano Corsi & Guido Sali, 2017. "Food Production and Consumption: City Regions between Localism, Agricultural Land Displacement, and Economic Competitiveness," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(1), pages 1-20, January.
    4. repec:gam:jagris:v:8:y:2018:i:9:p:130-:d:165520 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:3:p:620-:d:133806 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:eee:jfpoli:v:76:y:2018:i:c:p:109-119 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. repec:ags:ifaamr:264244 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Gianluca Brunori & Francesca Galli, 2016. "Sustainability of Local and Global Food Chains: Introduction to the Special Issue," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(8), pages 1-7, August.
    9. repec:spr:ssefpa:v:10:y:2018:i:6:d:10.1007_s12571-018-0868-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. repec:gam:jsusta:v:11:y:2019:i:4:p:1123-:d:207771 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Anatoliy G. Goncharuk, 2017. "Wine Value Chains: Challenges and Prospects," Journal of Applied Management and Investments, Department of Business Administration and Corporate Security, International Humanitarian University, vol. 6(1), pages 11-27, February.
    12. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:7:p:1155-:d:103369 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. repec:gam:jsusta:v:11:y:2018:i:1:p:45-:d:192326 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Henk Oostindie & Rudolf Van Broekhuizen & Kees De Roest & Giovanni Belletti & Filippo Arfini & Davide Menozzi & Eric Hees, 2016. "Sense and Non-Sense of Local–Global Food Chain Comparison, Empirical Evidence from Dutch and Italian Pork Case Studies," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(4), pages 1-18, March.
    15. Damian Maye & James Kirwan & Emilia Schmitt & Daniel Keech & Dominique Barjolle, 2016. "PDO as a Mechanism for Reterritorialisation and Agri-Food Governance: A Comparative Analysis of Cheese Products in the UK and Switzerland," Agriculture, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(4), pages 1-16, October.
    16. Hugo F. Alrøe & Marion Sautier & Katharine Legun & Jay Whitehead & Egon Noe & Henrik Moller & Jon Manhire, 2017. "Performance versus Values in Sustainability Transformation of Food Systems," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(3), pages 1-31, February.
    17. Emilia Schmitt & Daniel Keech & Damian Maye & Dominique Barjolle & James Kirwan, 2016. "Comparing the Sustainability of Local and Global Food Chains: A Case Study of Cheese Products in Switzerland and the UK," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(5), pages 1-20, April.
    18. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:4:p:1251-:d:142012 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    local; global; food supply chain; sustainability; assessment; reflexive governance; post-normal science;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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