FOODLEVERS - Leverage points to scale up organic and sustainable food systems
Undoubtedly, a transition toward sustainability has become one of the main societal challenges. FOODLEVERS’ goal is to identify key leverage points to further develop and scale-up existing innovative organic and sustainable food systems (FSs). It aims to promote higher resource-efficiency, highlight inefficiencies, specify the reasons for decision-making processes that led to the current configuration of the FSs, and thus identify configurations that “work” and may be scaled up.
Re-connect, Re-structure and Re-think
To investigate potential leverage points in FSs, FOODLEVERS takes a systems view, encompassing products, production technologies, marketing practices and actors. It uses a “re-connect, re-structure, re-think” framework, wherein holistically actors’ behaviours and the structure of FSs are conceptualized toward sustainability (Abson et al., 2017):
- “re-connect” people to nature to encourage sustainable behaviours whilst shortening feed-backs and improving wellbeing;
- “re-structure” institutions and consider how institutional dynamics can create an enabling environment for sustainability;
- “re-think” how knowledge is created and used, shared and validated
Rather than treating each unit of FSs solely, FOODLEVERS considers the interdependencies between interacting FS units. Therefore, aggregation of changes in actors’ behaviours is a potential source of system change toward sustainability. Moreover, to build such a holistic view on FSs’ sustainability status, this project applies a multi-disciplinary and multi-actor approach to identify different behaviours in innovative case studies of organic and sustainable FSs from cradle to grave as potential levers to increase sustainability.
Characterizing innovative food systems
FOODLEVERS first seeks distinctive elements of FS’s, innovative case studies throughout the EU and data needed for a common reference system. The FS is then characterized in terms of its ecosystem services, life-cycle analysis, socio-economic value and consumer behaviour, to understand potential sources for change. These may be practices, technologies, products or other factors at the level of the actors. The effectiveness of these sources is then studied in different models: decision-making scenarios of actors, Agent-Based Modelling and qualitative scenario modelling. Agent-Based Modelling simulates complex FS’s scenarios to study the effect of combinations of different actors’ behaviours on the entire system. Different mechanisms are thus experimented as potential levers for sustainability. Qualitative scenario modelling engages FS actors to draw on current expertise and experiences to gain insight into future scenarios. FOODLEVERS engages actors on an ongoing basis, from the selection of case studies through the validation process and analyses, to the formulation of recommendations.
Levers to scale up organic food systems
Thus from the analysis of innovative organic FSs and from simulations best practice processes are identified, to increase resource efficiency and reduce trade-offs between production/distribution stages. Leverage points to re-connect, re-structure and re-think FSs are consequently formulated.
Vlaamse overheid, Departement Landbouw en Visserij
Abson D.J., Fischer J., Leventon J. et al. (2017) Leverage points for sustainability transformation. Ambio 46 (1): 30-39, doi: 10.1007/s13280-016-0800-y
ILVO is the Flemish partner in a consortium of 8 partners from 7 EU-countries (BE, DE, FI, IT, PL, RO, UK) with Philipps-Universität Marburg (DE) as coordinator