Food System Sustainability Measurement and Management
Life Cycle Thinking Life cycle thinking refers to sustainability measurement and management approaches that consider all relevant supply chain interactions associated with a product, service, activity, or entity. According to Klöpffer (2003) “Life cycle thinking is the prerequisite of any sound sustainability assessment. It does not make any sense at all to improve one part of the system in one country or in one step of the life cycle if this ‘improvement’ has negative consequences for other parts of the system which may outweigh the advantages achieved.” In other words, life cycle thinking is essential to understanding and preventing unintentional burden shifting, whether between different kinds of sustainability impacts or between different supply chain stages or stakeholders that may occur as a result of our management decisions. Life cycle thinking and tools have become central to sustainability science.
Food Systems in Context Modern food systems play a pivotal role in determining sustainability outcomes at multiple scales. This includes our collective resource demands, environmental pressures related to biodiversity, waste emissions to air, soil and water, and socio-economic benefits and costs. Projected growth in food production, changing patterns of production and consumption, increased competition for land, water, and energy resources, technological developments, and both social and environmental instabilities intersect to create profound challenges and opportunities. Understanding and managing food production systems, which are often supported by supply chains that span multiple borders, ecosystems, and societies, in order to respond to these challenges and to capitalize on emerging opportunities requires perspectives and tools of commensurate scope.
Current Research Research in the Food Systems PRISM lab applies life cycle thinking and tools to explore and to help resolve pressing questions at the interface of food, ecology and society. Current work focuses, in particular, on sustainability issues relevant to the Canadian egg industry and to the Canadian food sector, more broadly.