Transforming the International Food Supply ; Sustainable Practices in Small Intermediary Businesses

Titre Transforming the International Food Supply ; Sustainable Practices in Small Intermediary Businesses
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Auteur WEBER Hanna
Date 2021
Pagination 184 p.
Notes Thèse de docteur de philosophie - University of Lüneburg, Faculty of Sustainability Science of Leuphana.
Résumé Resumen : “The global food system faces many complex challenges, and there is general agreement that a transformation is needed. While localizing food has been proposed as a means to this end, changing global food supply chains may also lead to sustainable food systems. Because most food systems today have an international dimension and are likely to remain connected, on one way or another, to other ones across the globe, it is necessary to find solutions to problems such as exploitation or environmental degradation. Current approaches such as Fairtrade certification often result, however, only in incremental change, and it is not clear how the current system could be transformed to make it sustainable. Addressing this challenge and the related gap in the literature, this study examines the emerging practices of small intermediary food businesses, which act between agricultural producers and consumers, and may have the potential to advance sustainability in international food supply. Including a systematic review of the literature on food systems change (Study#1), this dissertation adopts a transformational sustainability research methodology, which is solution-oriented, aims to integrate system, target and transformation knowledge, and is characterized by a transdisciplinary research practice. It conceptualizes challenges of international food supply and empirically investigates entrepreneurial solution approaches to address these challenges (Study#2). Two transdisciplinary research projects with small coffee businesses located in Germany, Mexico, and the U.S. were conducted to examine how these approaches could be implemented (Study#3, Study#4, Workshop reports 1+2). This study shows that challenges in international food supply chains can be conceptualized as negative effects of large geographical and relational distances. It also identifies five entrepreneurial solution approaches specified by twelve sustainability-oriented design principles to address these negative effects. Creating relational proximity between supply chain actors, that is, strong relationships based on knowledge and care, seems to be a key factor to advance sustainability in international food supply. The results also suggest that by building such strong relationships and changing the fundamental principles of international food trade (e.g. putting people before profits), small intermediary businesses could be important agents in food system transformations. The findings also highlight the importance of collaboration with peers in local networks, in which new sustainable business practices could be shared and disseminated. Transdisciplinary collaborations involving both researchers and small food businesses could result in innovative solutions and, ultimately, a transformation of food systems. Although the small-sized businesses examined here are already highly committed to sustainability, this study has important implications for researchers and practitioners, including individual entrepreneurs, who aim to advance sustainability in international food supply.”

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