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Evaluating the environmental, economic and social sustainability of agro-food systems through Life Cycle approaches
For a long time now, academic, technicians and practitioners from different disciplines and sectors are constantly discussing, each one from its point of views, on sustainability concerns linked to the management of agricultural and food systems, trying to reflect about all many aspects and implications. Although the term “sustainability” can be considered a too easily used word, thanks to its apparent intuitive comprehensibility, it remains still today a concept difficult to put in practice.
Above all, the main difficulty can be attributed to the need of integration of the different sustainability dimensions, environmental, economic and social. Indeed, although the academia is constantly engaged in researches to solve this issue, a formally and worldwide recognized ensemble of frameworks, approaches, methodologies, methods, techniques and tools, for measuring sustainability is not yet univocally identified.
Besides, if the ultimate objective is to reach a holistic level of sustainability thanks to behavioural changes of entrepreneurs, brokers, consumers, public agencies, and communities, therefore, it is undeniable that the capacity to measure sustainability performances become extremely. As well as, in the same way, it is necessary the most comprehensive knowledge about who or what (subject, product or service) generates a certain typology of impact (positive or negative), that have to be appropriately characterized and quantified, in order to suggest sustainability-oriented innovations or changes.
Especially in the agro-food contexts, characterized by high levels of complexity, both for the biological features of their main components, but also for the strong interconnections among different systems, the measurement of sustainability represents a serious matter worthy to be deepened to solve the future challenges linked to environmental urgencies, economical needs and social priorities. Nevertheless, the responsibility of agro-food systems in causing negative externalities confirms the increasing requirement to find new methods and tools for the impacts assessment. Indeed, it is notorious that agro-food productions represent the most polluting economic activities, contributing to environmental damages such as global warming, loss of biodiversity, energy and water resources depletion and wastes production. At once, the appropriate corrective actions for the mitigation of environmental issues, must be conciliate the economic needs of entrepreneurs, related to costs reduction, income stabilization, productivity and competitiveness.
In this attempt to face the sustainability concerns in the broadest manner, the life cycle-based approaches can help to extend and complete the analysis of the problem, by a systemic approach considering all phases of production processes.
The novel idea of Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) conceptual framework is to consider a product or service as a living being, i.e. with a “birth” when the production process starts from raw materials, a “life” in the phase of use by consumers, and a “death” if eventually are discarded. Within this cycle, “from cradle to grave”, the product relates, dynamically, to environmental, economic and social domains, and this is the reason why, over time, a set of specific tools have been elaborated, within LCT, in order to evaluate different impacts deriving from the life cycles of goods and services. In particular, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is applied to evaluate the impact of goods and services on different environmental categories. Life Cycle Costing (LCC) can be used to measure the economic impact of goods and services by analysing all relevant costs items (both at firm’s level and as externalities at societal level). Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA) attempts, through different approaches to identify and assess social repercussions and implications generate from goods and services production.
If you find this story stimulating, you may be interested in browsing more content within this book on ScienceDirect. We are pleased to offer you a free chapter – access this content by clicking on this link – Evaluating the Environmental, Economic, and Social Sustainability of Agro-Food Systems Through Life Cycle Approaches. This chapter (#4) provides a description of the above mentioned life cycle methodologies, by highlighting their meanings and approaches, and providing a brief overview of the state of the art of the main application in agro-food sector.
Agro-food sustainability assessment has to be addressed, necessarily, with the right mindfulness in considering the multifarious aspects and implications that characterize this complex domain. The distinctive features of agro-food productions require a significant knowledge effort aimed to define new methodologies, by moving towards a holistic evaluation of problems. Life Cycle approaches can represent a suitable set of tools to recognize, characterize, analyse, determine, quantify and understand impacts, repercussions and effects of a different nature generate by a production process. Although with their specificity and complexity of application, LCA, LCC and SLCA offer a powerful means to compare production techniques (traditional vs innovative) and typologies of food products, and to provide useful guidelines and practical suggestions to apprise and advise private and public subjects on sustainable pathways. Furthermore, an established and shared knowledge about Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) represents, for the near future, the cutting edge of life cycle-based sustainability approaches.
Sustainable Food Systems from Agriculture to Industry: Improving Production and Processing addresses the principle that food supply needs of the present must be met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Responding to sustainability goals requires maximum utilization of all raw materials produced and integration of activities throughout all production-to-consumption stages. This book covers production stage activities to reduce postharvest losses and increase use of by-products streams (waste), food manufacturing and beyond, presenting insights to ensure energy, water and other resources are used efficiently and environmental impacts are minimized.
- Addresses why food waste recovery improves sustainability of food systems, how these issues can be adapted by the food industry, and the role of policy making in ensuring sustainable food production
- Describes in detail the latest understanding of food processing, food production and waste reduction issues
- Includes emerging topics, such as sustainable organic food production and computer aided process engineering
- Analyzes the potential and sustainability of already commercialized processes and products
Giovanni Gulisano (co-authoring Chapter 4, Evaluating the Environmental, Economic and Social Sustainability of Agro-Food Systems Through Life Cycle Approaches) is Full Professor in Economics and Rural Appraisal at the Department of Agriculture (AGRARIA) of the Mediterranean University of Reggio Calabria, Italy. He teaches Rural Appraisal and Agricultural Economics and Policy. From 2009 to 2012, he was Director of Department of Agriculture (AGRARIA) of the Mediterranean University of Reggio Calabria (Italy) and fulfilled other institutional roles in the academic field as coordinator of PhD, Msc and Bsc courses. His research focus is on the assessment methodologies of agricultural systems sustainability, with particular interest about life cycle approaches as well as issues relating to agricultural, rural and fisheries policies. He has more than 20 published or accepted peer reviewed research or reviews articles in international journals with high impact factor journals (Scopus and ISI Web of Knowledge), more than 50 other scientific articles, book chapters and presentations in conferences. Follow Prof. Gulisano ResearchGate
Alfio Strano (co-authoring Chapter 4, Evaluating the Environmental, Economic and Social Sustainability of Agro-Food Systems Through Life Cycle Approaches) is Researcher in Economics and Rural Appraisal at the Department of Agriculture (AGRARIA) of the Mediterranean University of Reggio Calabria, Italy. He teaches “Economics and management of agri-food businesses” at the course of Agricultural Science and Technologies. During his academic career, he teached in courses of higher learning and national and international master courses. His activity of scientific research mainly concerns the agricultural business administration and management of agri-food enterprises, and in particular decision making and management issues of agricultural and agri-food supply chains.
He made researches about the integrated planning in rural areas, the evaluation of innovation and qualification of local productive systems and the institution of rural districts, as well as the sustainable and integrated development of tourism in marginal areas. He has investigated the evaluation of sustainability through the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Social Life Cycle Assessment (sLCA) and Life Cycle Costing (LCC), applying them the agricultural processes and produces.
He participated to several research projects and published more than 90 scientific works as for example essays, book chapters, papers in national and international scientific journals (with Impact Factor). He coordinated several PhD, master and bachelor thesis.
Follow Dr. Strano: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Alfio_Strano
Anna Irene De Luca (co-authoring Chapter 4, Evaluating the Environmental, Economic and Social Sustainability of Agro-Food Systems Through Life Cycle Approaches) is Researcher in Economics and Rural Appraisal at the Department of Agriculture (AGRARIA) of the Mediterranean University of Reggio Calabria, Italy, since 2013. She teaches Economic and Environmental Appraisal and Management of Agri-food Firms. She holds a BSc in Agricultural Science and Technology from the Mediterranean University of Reggio Calabria (Italy, 2002), an MSc in Agricultural Economics and Policy from the University of Naples (Italy, 2004), a visiting student fellowship from the Wageningen University (Netherlands, 2005) and a PhD in Agricultural Economics and Policy from the University of Palermo (Italy, 2007). Her research focus is on assessment methodologies of agricultural systems sustainability, with particular interest about life cycle and multicriteria approaches for the integrated evaluation of environmental, economic and social impacts. Her research interests also address issues relating to agricultural policy and rural development. From 2013 to 2016 she was National Coordinator of FIRB project “Multidisciplinary and innovative methodologies for sustainable management in agricultural systems” (funded by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research – MIUR). She has more than 20 published or accepted peer reviewed research or reviews articles in international journals in high impact factor journals (Scopus and ISI Web of Knowledge), more than 30 other scientific articles, book chapters and presentations in conferences. Follow Dr. De Luca via LinkedIn or ResearchGate
He is research fellow at the Department of Agriculture (AGRARIA) of the Mediterranean University of Reggio Calabria, Italy. He graduated in Agricultural Science and Technologies in 2006 and he holds a PhD degree in Agricultural Economics and Politics, obtained in 2013 with a thesis entitled “The environmental and economic sustainability of vinegrowing scenarios in Cirò area, Calabria”. His scientific activity mainly concerns the sustainability evaluation of agricultural productive processes through the application of Life Cycle Assessment and Life Cycle Costing methodology.
Nathalie Iofrida (co-authoring Chapter 4, Evaluating the Environmental, Economic and Social Sustainability of Agro-Food Systems Through Life Cycle Approaches) is a research fellow in Economics and Rural Appraisal at the Department of Agriculture (AGRARIA) of the Mediterranean University of Reggio Calabria, Italy.
She holds a PhD degree (Doctor Europaeus) in Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences and Technologies, curriculum Agricultural Economics and Politics, obtained with a thesis entitled “Paradigmatic stances and methodological issues in Social Life Cycle Assessment. Comparison of two different methodological proposals applied to agricultural products”, that has been awarded, in 2016, by the Italian Society of Agricultural Economics (SIDEA, third place) and the Italian Network of LCA (second place). Her current research is part of a scientific research project entitled “Sustainable models and new technologies for the valorization of olive growing produces in Calabria” funded by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research. Her specific work is currently about the “Sustainability assessment of olive growing systems through Life Cycle Methodologies (LCA, LCC, SLCA)”, coordinated by Professor Giovanni Gulisano. She is an expert of social Life Cycle Assessment, Multicriteria Decision Analysis, integrated planning for sustainable and rural development, transnational cooperation. She is also board-certified in Project Management, registered in the European Register of euro-Project Designers & Managers since March 2013.
Teodora Stillitano (co-authoring Chapter 4, Evaluating the Environmental, Economic and Social Sustainability of Agro-Food Systems Through Life Cycle Approaches) graduated, in 2005, in “Forestry and Environmental Sciences” at the Faculty of Agriculture of the Mediterranean University of Reggio Calabria. In April 2010, she obtained a Ph.D. in “Economics and Agricultural Policy” at the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Palermo. In the same year, she get enrolled in the Master’s course in Environmental Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering of the Mediterranean University of Reggio Calabria; she obtained the title of Expert in Environmental Monitoring and Control on September 2011. From July 2010 until now, she is a research fellow at the Department of Agriculture of the Mediterranean University of Reggio Calabria. Her research interest is on the methodologies for the assessment of agricultural systems sustainability (life cycle approaches), investment analysis in the agricultural sector, and techno-economic evaluation of forest resources.
Charis M. Galanakis (book’s editor) is an interdisciplinary scientist with a fast-expanding work that balances between food and environment, industry, and academia. His research targets mainly the separation and recovery of functional macro- and micromolecules from different food by-products, as well as their implementation as additives in food and other products. He is the coordinator of Food Waste Recovery Group of ISEKI Food Association (Vienna, Austria) and R&I director of Galanakis Laboratories (Chania, Greece). He serves as an editorial board member and subject editor of Food and Bioproducts Processing and Food Research International, and he has edited 9 books with Elsevier. See his full portfolio of books here.
If you find this story stimulating, you may be interested in browsing more content within this book on ScienceDirect. We are pleased to offer you a free chapter – access this content by clicking on this link – Evaluating the Environmental, Economic, and Social Sustainability of Agro-Food Systems Through Life Cycle Approaches
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