How Sustainable are Food Systems? One Step beyond the Concept

Author/s Clara Cicatiello, Silvio Franco, Emanuele Blasi, Barbara Pancino
Publishing Year 2015 Issue 2015/1 Language English
Pages 16 P. 181-196 File size 184 KB
DOI 10.3280/RISS2015-001012
DOI is like a bar code for intellectual property: to have more infomation click here

Below, you can see the article first page

If you want to buy this article in PDF format, you can do it, following the instructions to buy download credits

Article preview

FrancoAngeli is member of Publishers International Linking Association, Inc (PILA), a not-for-profit association which run the CrossRef service enabling links to and from online scholarly content.

The sustainability of food systems is a topical issue in recent years, but the definition of this concept is still very unclear. This paper aims to face this challenge, in order to support a sustainability assessment of the food systems. Such a definition should tackle the underpinning dimensions of sustainability, i.e. the environmental, social and economic domains. Once the sustainability concept has been defined, an interpretative framework to assess food system sustainability can be proposed, and indicators to measure these issues are discussed. Many have already been tested at the operative level, but it remains unclear how to measure some social and economic issues. Suggestions on how to fill these gaps are discussed in the paper, so as to provide a more comprehensive understanding of how food systems sustainability may be measured in the practice.

Keywords: Sustainability indicators, sustainability assessment, food system, food sustainability.

  1. World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) (1987). Our common future. Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. New York.
  2. Bagliani M., Galli A., Niccolucci V., Marchettini N. (2006). Ecological footprint analysis applied to a sub-national area: the case of the province of Siena (Italy). Journal of Environmental Management, 86 (2): 354-364, DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2006.04.015
  3. Baumann H., Tillman A.M. (2004). The hitch hicker’s guide to LCA. Studentlitteratur, Lund, SWE.
  4. Beekman G., Van der Heide M., Heijman W.J.M., Schouten M.A.H. (2009). Social capital and resilience in rural areas: responses to change. Mansholt Graduate School of Social Sciences, Wageningen, NL.
  5. Blay-Palmer A. (ed.) (2010). Imagining sustainable food systems: theory and practice. Ashgate Publishing, Farnham, Surrey (UK).
  6. Brown B., Hanson M.E., Liverman D.M., Merideth R.W. jr. (1987). Global sustainability: toward definition. Environmental Management, 11 (6): 713-719, DOI: 10.1007/BF01867238
  7. Brown C., Miller S. (2008). The impacts of local markets: a review of research on farmers’ markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). American. Journal of Agricultural Economics, 90 (5): 1296-1302, DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8276.2008.01220.x
  8. Bullock S. (2000). The economic benefits of farmers’ markets. Friends of the Earth Trust Publication, London.
  9. Chiappero Martinetti E. (2006). Capability approach and fuzzy set theory: description, aggregation and inference issues. In: Lemmi A., Betti G. (eds.). Fuzzy Set Approach to Multidimensional Poverty Measurement. Springer, New York: 93-113, DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-34251-1_6
  10. Cicatiello C., Pancino B., Pascucci S., Franco S. (2014). Relationship patterns in food purchase: observing social interactions in different shopping environments. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 28 (1): 21-42, DOI: 10.1007/s10806-014-9516-9
  11. Custance J. (2002). The development of national, regional and local indicators of sustainable development in the United Kingdom. Statistical Journal of the United Nations, 19: 19-28.
  12. Daily G.C. (ed.) (1997). Natures services: societal dependence on natural ecosystems. Island Press, Washington, DC.
  13. Daly H.E. (1973). Towards a steady-state economy. W.H. Freeman, San Francisco, CA.
  14. Daly H.E. (1992). Steady State Economics. Earthscan, London.
  15. Ehrenfeld J.R. (2008). Sustainability needs to be attained, not managed. Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy, 4 (2): 1-3. Ericksen P.J. (2008). Conceptualizing food systems for global environmental change research. Global Environmental Change, 18 (1): 234-245, DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2007.09.002
  16. FAO (2013). Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture systems (SAFA) indicators. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.
  17. Feenstra G. (2002). Creating space for sustainable food systems: Lessons from the field. Agriculture and Human Values, 19 (2): 99-106, DOI: 10.1023/A:1016095421310
  18. Gerbens-Leenes P.W., Hoekstra A.Y. (2008). Business water footprint accounting: a tool to assess how production of goods and services impacts on freshwater resources worldwide. Value of Water Research Report Series No. 27, UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, Delft.
  19. Gerbens-Leenes P.W., Moll H.C., Schoot Uiterkamp A.J.M. (2003). Design and development of a measuring method for environmental sustainability in food production systems. Ecological Economics, 46 (2): 231-248, DOI: 10.1016/S0921-8009(03)00140-X
  20. Gillespie G.W. (2009). AFHVS Presidential address: the steering question: challenges to achieving food system sustainability. Agriculture and Human Values, 27: 3-12, DOI: 10.1007/s10460-009-9243-4
  21. Goodland R. (1995). The concept of environmental sustainability. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 26: 1-24, DOI: 10.1146/
  22. Goodman D. (2004). Rural Europe redux? reflections on alternative agro-food networks and paradigm change. Sociologia Ruralis, 44 (1): 3-16, DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9523.2004.00258.x
  23. Heller M.C., Keoleian G.A. (2003). Assessing the sustainability of the US food system: a life cycle perspective. Agricultural Systems, 76 (3): 1007-1041, DOI: 10.1016/S0308-521X(02)00027-6
  24. Holdren J.P., Daily G.C., Ehrlich P.R. (1995). The meaning of sustainability: biogeophysical aspects. In: Munasingha M., Shearer W. (eds.). Defining and measuring sustainability: the biogeophysical foundations: 3-18. The World Bank Edition, Washington, DC.
  25. Ilbery B., Maye D. (2005). Food supply chains and sustainability: evidence from specialist food producers in the Scottish/English borders. Land Use Policy, 22 (4): 331-344, DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2004.06.002
  26. La Trobe H. (2001). Farmers’ markets: consuming local rural produce. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 25 (3): 181-192, DOI: 10.1046/j.1470-6431.2001.00171.x
  27. Labuschagne C., Brent A.C., van Erck R.P.G. (2005). Assessing the sustainability performances of industries. Journal of Cleaner Production, 13 (4): 373-385, DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2003.10.007
  28. Lehtonen M. (2004). The environmental-social interface of sustainable development: capabilities, social capital, institutions. Ecological Economics, 49: 199-214, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2004.03.019
  29. Lyon P., Collie V., Kvarnbrink E.B., Colquhoun A. (2009). Shopping at the farmers’ market: consumers and their perspectives. Journal of Foodservice, 20 (1): 21-30, DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-0159.2008.00119.x.MascarenhasA.,CoelhoP.,SubtilE.,RamosT.B.(2010).Theroleofcommonlocalindicatorsinregionalsustainabilityassessment.EcologicalIndicators,10:646-656,doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2009.11.003
  30. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005). Ecosystems and human well-being: synthesis. Island Press: Washington, DC.
  31. Mineur E. (2007). Towards sustainable development indicators as a tool of local governance. Research Report 2007(5). Umeå, SW: Department of Political Science, Umeå University.
  32. Moldan B., Janousková S., Hák T. (2011). How to understand and measure environmental sustainability: indicators and targets. Ecological Indicators, 17: 4-13, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2011.04.033
  33. Murdoch J., Miele M. (2002). Back to nature: changing worlds of production in the food sector. Sociologia Ruralis, 39 (4): 465-483, DOI: 10.1111/1467-9523.00119
  34. Pascucci S., Cicatiello C., Franco S., Pancino B., Marino D. (2011). Back to the future? Understanding change in food habits of farmers’ market customers. International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, 14 (4): 105-126.
  35. Pope J., Annandale D., Morrison-Saunders A. (2004). Conceptualising sustainability assessment. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 24: 595-616, DOI: 10.1016/j.eiar.2004.03.001
  36. Putnam R.D., Leonardi R., Nanetti R.Y. (1993). Making democracy work: civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
  37. Renting H., Marsden T.K., Banks J. (2003). Understanding alternative food networks: exploring the role of short food supply chains in rural development. Environment and planning A, 35 (3): 393-412, DOI: 10.1068/a3510
  38. Scoones I. (1998). Sustainable rural livelihoods: a framework for analysis. IDS working paper, 72. IDS, Brighton.
  39. Sen A. (1999). Development as freedom. Oxford University Press.
  40. Sommer R., Herrick J., Sommer T.R. (1981). The behavioral ecology of supermarkets and farmers’ markets. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 1 (1): 13-19, DOI: 10.1016/S0272-4944(81)80014-X
  41. Spangenberg J.H. (2005). Economic sustainability of the economy: concepts and indicators. International Journal of Sustainable Development, 8 (1 & 2): 47-64, DOI: 10.1504/IJSD.2005.007374
  42. United Nations (UN) (2000). United Nations Millennium Declaration. Resolution adopted by the general assembly 55/2. UN Publishing, New York.
  43. Wackernagel M., Rees W.E. (1996). Our ecological footprint: reducing human impact on earth. New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, CDN.
  44. Wilkins J.L. (2002). Consumer perceptions of seasonal and local foods: a study in a U.S. community. Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 41 (4): 415-439, DOI: 10.1080/03670240214066
  45. Zepeda L., Leviten-Reid C. (2004). Consumers’ views on local food. Journal of Food Distribution Research, 35 (3): 1-6.

Clara Cicatiello, Silvio Franco, Emanuele Blasi, Barbara Pancino, How Sustainable are Food Systems? One Step beyond the Concept in "RIVISTA DI STUDI SULLA SOSTENIBILITA'" 1/2015, pp 181-196, DOI: 10.3280/RISS2015-001012