man with basket of food suschain 392x272Damian Maye and James Kirwan contributed to a paper which has been published with ‘open access’ in a special issue of Sustainability; Sustainability Performance of Conventional and Alternative Food Chains.

This paper is the second one published in this special issue of Sustainability which has been co-written by CCRI researchers and based on findings on the EU 7th Framework Programme funded project, GLAMUR – “Global and Local food chain Assessment: a MUltidimensional performance-based approach”

CCRI Associate, Julie Smith, who completed her PhD on traditional food markets at the CCRI in 2012, also contributed to the paper.

This paper is entitled ‘Are local food chains more sustainable than global food chains?  Considerations for assessment’ and summarizes the main findings of the GLAMUR project. It starts with an apparently simple question: is “local” more sustainable than “global”?

Evidence suggests taking strong 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, the 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.

The full reference of the paper is Brunori, G., Galli, F., Barjolle, D., Van Broekhuizen, R., Colombo, L., Giampietro, M., Kirwan, J., Lang, T., Mathijs, E., Maye, D., De Roest, K., Schwarz, J., Schmitt, E., Smith, J., Stojanovic, Z., Tisenkopfs, T. and Touzard, J. (2016) ‘Are local food chains more sustainable than global food chains? Considerations for assessment’ Sustainability 2016, 8(5), 449; doi: 10.3390/su8050449

Free access to paper 

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