WP 2     Holistic sustainability assessment  P3      (CNR IRET)


This task is aimed to develop and implement a methodological approach able to assess the holistic sustainability of innovative food systems. Sustainability in agriculture is a complex concept, comprising different dimensions, in most cases interlinked with each other. Measuring these dimensions using single indicators therefore does not adequately cover system-level characteristics. WP2 will assess the sustainability of innovative food systems identified in WP1 adopting a multi criteria approach. According to this approach, the systems will be analysed under different points of views: i) productive functions to evaluate ecosystem service delivered; ii) value chain performance assessing the energy efficiency and environmental sustainability; iii) consumer behaviours understanding their decision-making processes on and why certain decisions concerning consumption patterns are made.



The WP2 will consist of different tasks that will analyze the systems under different points of views. The first step will involve the stakeholders in sustainability indicator prioritization to implement a Public Goods tool (PG tool) to assess ecosystem services at farm level. Life Cycle Assessment will then be applied including social elements (human nutrition and social wellbeing) alongside environmental factors (GHGs, fossil energy, eutrophication, biodiversity). The LCA will be integrated with other tools (Emergy Evaluation and Value Chain Assessment) in order to inform decision makers on holistic sustainability costs and benefits of innovative food systems and individual practices. Furthermore, a participative sequential mixed method approach, based on the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) combining qualitative and quantitative research (focus groups, semistructured surveys), will be implemented to understand consumers’ decision making process. This WP will be led by CNR IRET.


Task     2.1       Ecosystem services assessment

Farms provide many ESS alongside their primary production function. This task will evaluate the ESS provided by agricultural value chains in different farming systems across a range of areas: soil, water, manure, and nutrient management, landscape and heritage, energy and carbon, food security, (agro-)biodiversity, social capital, farm resilience, and animal health and welfare. We will consider the environmental benefits of including side products within the value chain as well as organisational innovations.

The PG tool (Gerrard et al. 2012) is a sustainability assessment tool for farming systems which analyses farm performance, using environmental, economic and social indicators. The tool will be updated to include further factors along the value chain. The tool facilitates a dialogue between the assessor and the farmer and can be used to identify areas for improvement, possible solutions and monitor changes over time. The assessment process can also highlight contributions a farm is making to society, above and beyond the food and other products leaving the farm gate. EFI, RAU and ORC will lead the work on indicator selection and provide guidance to case study partners in organising the indicator workshops, adapt the PG tool and data collection. Case study partners will select interested farms to collect indicator data. EFI, RAU and ORC will assist case study partners in analysing the data.

Task     2.2       Life cycle and emergy assessment

This task analyses the environmental sustainability of the case studies identified in task 1.1 by an integrated holistic life cycle and emergy assessment (EME). A cradle-to-grave LCA will determine the overall sustainability of the innovative FS in comparison to mainstream organic systems based on data from WP1, and EME will be used for an energy efficiency analysis of the FS. The LCA compares different environmental parameters (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions, abiotic resource use and land-use) using latest methods (e.g. updated methodologies for GHG accounting, Cain et al., 2019) and incorporating novel indicators for human nutrition, biodiversity and social wellbeing. Indicators will be selected through a structured literature review and through a welldesigned Delphi process (Mullender et al. 2020 under review). EME is used to analyze energy efficiency and sustainability of complex systems by expressing and accounting for different forms of energy on a common physical basis (Zhang et al. 2007; Campbell et al. 2009, Brown & Ulgiati 1999; Odum 1996). After accounting for each system, we will use EME indices to assess the share of economic and environmental inputs to determine the sustainability of FS under diverse socioeconomic contexts. All partners will be involved in this task by contributing to LCA and energy data collection from each of the case studies identified in WP1.

Task     2.3       Socio-economic value chain assessment

This task analyses the different value chain linkages of the identified case studies and their FS. Drawing from frameworks of Global Value Chains and Global Production Networks, this task will examine 1. added value activities (incl. knowledge production and ecosystem service provision), 2. complexities of production networks and innovation activities (network analysis), 3. relationship of actors in the chain (incl. decision making strategies and governance) 4. embeddedness to identify specific regional mechanisms. Furthermore, cost-benefit ratios will be determined, which enable an evaluation of the Net Social Return On Investment. Data will be collected in semi-structured qualitative expert interviews by the project partners using an interview protocol that will be developed by UMR. Cost-benefit ratios will then be determined incorporating PG tool data within a Natural Capital Accounting approach. Using this approach Net Social Return On Investment will be defined for each FS to highlight better/worse social, environmental and economic performance within innovative farming systems (Guirado et al. 2017). Following an interview protocol provided by UMR, all partners are asked to recruit suitable stakeholders linked to their case studies, organise appointments for data collection and undertake and record the qualitative interviews. The subsequent analysis will be undertaken by UMR.

Task     2.4       Consumer behaviour analysis

This task aims to understand consumers’ decision-making process in purchasing food in either innovative organic /agroforestry food systems or conventional systems / mainstream organic systems. Consumer behaviours, attitudes and diets will be investigated to understand what information about food production and processing are relevant for them (decision-making processes). This in turn to identify actions and communication strategies towards consumers to induce their behavioural change. This task will use a participative sequential mixed method approach, combining qualitative and quantitative research adopting focus groups and questionnaires. The underlying drivers of behaviour will be assessed based on the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) methodology. TPB allows to predict intentions/behaviour with respect to the purchase of a single product, choice between different brands/types of the same product, or choice among very different products, based on attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control. The surveys will target the case study FSs’ customers and a representative sample of the population to identify differences in barriers and levers. The information obtained can be used to design effective behaviour change interventions. The lead partner designs the focus group and survey protocol. Focus groups and surveys are conducted by all partners.

Milestone       2.1       PG tool adapted

Adaptation of the Public Goods tool (PG tool) incorporating the new indicators identified in the literature review and the Delphi workshops.

Milestone       2.2       LCA data collection completed

Data collection on greenhouse gas emissions, fossil energy use, eutrophication (N and P loading), abiotic resource use and land use, biodiversity, human nutrition and social well being completed for all case studies.

Milestone       2.3       Emergy study completed for case studies

Analysis of emergy efficiency of FS systems completed. Identification of common EME indices. It will allow developing regional-context pictures of the system sustainability including agroecosystem factors.

Milestone       2.4       Status report on value chain analysis

The status report gives an overview of the progress of value chain assessments of the different case studies. Besides relating to organisational and scheduling issues, it will entail first insights from the already completed value chain assessments.

Milestone       2.5       Implement focus group and surveys

A common protocol to implement the focus group and surveys in all regions will be agreed and developed. Guidelines to organize the focus groups (stakeholder target, number of participants, contents, etc.) will be agreed. The methodological approach of the semi-structured surveys will be implemented based on the outcomes of the focus groups and will be targeted to FSs’ customers and to a representative sample of the population. Responses will be statistically processed and analysed.

Deliverable     2.1       Report on ecosystem services

Report on the analysis of ESS delivered during farming processes using Public Goods tool (PG tool). The report focuses on how ESS values are affected within the contrasting farming systems, the environmental benefit of including co-product/waste values within the value chain of processed product, and the impact of organisational innovations on the sustainability of the farming systems.

Deliverable     2.2       Combined LCA and emergy report

The report on environmental sustainability of innovative FS compiles analysis cradle-to-grave LCA and emergy efficiency and enables to identify leverage points for future FS transition. The report helps also formulate regional guidelines for policy makers.

Deliverable     2.3       Report on value chain assessment

The final report on the value chain assessments compiles the analyses of the different case studies in one overall document and gives an overview of similarities, differences, drivers and barriers of the different farming systems, which helps to identify sustainability levers. The report furthermore allows for a deduction of recommendations e.g. for policy briefs.

Deliverable     2.4       Report on consumer behaviour change

Data collected with the focus groups and surveys will be analysed following the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB). The analysis will identify constraints and drivers related to behavioural change of consumers and which information about food production and processing are relevant for consumers to base their decision-making processes.