In its first phase, from 2015 to 2016, P2CS invested in two key strands of work, one focused on improved data and modelling of the environmental impacts of production-to-consumption systems and the other focused on how different actors determine supply chain dynamics, to better understand the governance of production, trade and consumption processes.
This led to a number of achievements:
- Enhanced tools and methods to estimate the environmental impacts of production-to-consumption systems, through research by Godar et al. (2016) and Croft et al. (2018). This led to the development of the trase.earth supply chain transparency platform, launched at COP22; the Klimatkalkylatorn online household carbon footprint calculator, which has been used by more than 300 000 visitors; and the PRINCE model and footprint indicators for Sweden; along with improvements and integrations of the IOTA footprinting model (see Models and decision-support tools for more information).
- A review of supply chain sustainability and transparency by Gardner et al. (2018), identifying some of the shortfalls and systematic biases in existing information systems, and principles for fostering a more positive, transformative transparency that embraces both supply-side and demand-side agendas.
- Research into how commodity value chain actors themselves view the limitations of private regulation and the prospects for more effective supply chain governance in a single supply chain (oil palm exported from Indonesia to Europe). This work identified the need for a pluralistic strategy that mobilizes the combined positive forces of civil society, business and government(s) in both consumer and producer economies Larsen et al. (2018).
In its second phase (2017–2018), P2CS aims to further advance our whole-system understanding of production and consumption. This includes further exploring the impacts of production at the local scale; modelling the environmental and economy-wide impacts of shifts in production or consumption patterns; strengthening SEI ́s capacity to model the sustainability of production-to-consumption systems; and extending trade-flow modelling applications into new sectors, including cargo shipping and the finance of global trade systems. In this phase, P2CS also has a strong focus on consumption impacts and consumer behaviour at sub-national scales.
Although the second phase is still underway, the team has already produced a number of research outputs, such as an analysis of the environmental and economic impacts of downshifting (Ghosh and Kemp-Benedict 2018)) and a highly detailed calculation of international shipping emissions produced when linking major producing regions to consumers in Europe, North America and Asia (Schim van der Loeff et al. 2018).
Further outputs will follow as the 13 seed projects funded by P2CS in its second phase (see box) produce their research insights and findings.
Follow the links below for more about the work of P2CS.
13 seed projects
- Understanding perspectives of sustainability and climate risk – making supply chains work for smallholders.
- The environmental impacts of Brazilian livestock production for domestic and international consumers.
- Improving SEI’s ability to assess the consumption-based environmental impacts at local scales.
- Understanding systems of consumption.
- Transport emissions from shipping.
- Finance of global commodity chains.
- Sensitivity and uncertainty analysis of trade and consumption-impact modelling.
- Critical appraisal of the role and use of indicators in discourses around sustainable production and consumption.
- Producers and consumer: a macroeconomic view.
- Exploring opportunities for citizen science approaches within producer to consumer research.
- Scoping study on understanding gendered experiences of rubber production and sustainable certification in Thailand.
- The story of sustainable textiles.
- Mapping the environmental and social risks, challenges and opportunities in the gold supply chain for electronics.
The climate calculator estimates people's carbon footprint and helps them adapt their lifestyles.
Downshifting our lives – and working less – could benefit the environment without harming the economy.
How businesses, governments, civil society and others can use our new transparency platform to promote more sustainable, deforestation-free supply chains.
The PRINCE project is exploring indicators for the food and agricultural footprints of Swedish consumption.
P2CS summary briefs
These briefs provide a snapshot of some of the main strands of work that has been done to date under the P2CS initiative. They have been prepared by the P2CS communications team.
- Towards more sustainable production – perspectives, challenges and opportunities along palm oil commodity chains
- Perspectives on sustainability – making supply chains work for smallholders
- Gender, social equality and sustainability certification in Thai smallholder rubber production
- Citizen science and food waste
- Testing transitions: A new model to explore how producer and consumer-led sustainability strategies could affect macroeconomic stability
- SEI-PCS: Spatially Explicit Information on Production to Consumption Systems
- Water use impacts of livestock production: the Brazilian Cerrado
- Calculating consumption impacts at the local level: a new approach in Umeå, Sweden
- Understanding sustainable lifestyles and consumer behaviour
- PRINCE Policy Relevant Indicators for National Consumption and Environment
How can better transparency boost sustainability governance in agricultural commodity supply chains?
Should governments be doing more to keep global palm oil value chains sustainable?
This article presents a new method for accurately calculating GHG emissions from marine cargo shipping, and attributing them to countries, vessels and products.
Using a multiregional input-output (MRIO) model to link Brazilian sub-national agricultural production and associated impacts to regional final consumption.
This paper proposes a novel explanation for why economic output has not historically been decoupled from total energy and material throughput.
This article presents a post-Keynesian model for studying the potential implications of the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Farm-level data from the eastern Brazilian Amazon shows that market proximity had a significant positive correlation with fertilizer adoption.
This paper presents a theory of induced technological change in which firms pursue a random, local, and bounded search for productivity-enhancing innovations.
This article presents evidence that current environmental legislation designed to protect streams and their biota in the Amazon is not fit for purpose
Field evidence that overturns the assumption that rural–urban migration in the tropics will reduce hunting of bushmeat and endangered forest species
This article examines the roles played by large interests and smallholders in creating agricultural frontiers, focusing on the Gran Chaco region.
This book chapter suggests how producer jurisdictions can play a more effective role in making agricultural commodity more sustainable.
The article suggests that non-monetary factors, as well as lack of infrastructure, explain the persistence of cattle-ranching and other unsustainable land uses.
Multi-scale assessment of the biological condition of streams in the Amazon to date, examining functional responses of fish assemblages to land use
This paper presents a step towards a post-Keynesian dynamic model for long-run policy analysis.
Changing land-use and its influence on soil C and N stocks, soil organic matter physical fractions, and the origin of SOM in the Amazon
This paper calls into question the conventional view of price determination, showing that actual prices are typically set as a markup on normal costs
How the PRINCE project is using multiregional input-output modeling for more accurate consumption footprints in Sweden
Models and decision-support tools
A main focus of P2CS has been supporting and developing a number of models and decision-support tools that map various aspects of the producer to consumer system.
Transparency for trade flows and impacts
Trase (for Transparency for Sustainable Economies) is an initiative co-led by SEI and Global Canopy. Trase seeks to transform understanding of agricultural commodity supply chains originating in tropical forest regions – and their sustainability implications. Its flagship product is the online platform trase.earth, launched at COP22 in Marrakech in 2016. Trase.earth allows users to explore unique data sets on the trade flows of key forest-risk commodities exported from South American countries, from the localities of production, via the companies that buy and trade them, to the countries that import them. Data also reflects both volumes and the risk of deforestation associated with each locality, trader and import market, as well as numerous other indicators. Users can also download a range of other forest-risk commodity flow data sets.
In a partnership with UCL, one P2CS seed project has demonstrated how the data innovations behind Trase can be combined with automatic ship-location (AIS) and other data to calculate greenhouse gas and air pollution emissions from maritime cargo shipping. This data-rich system provides the most accurate estimates of maritime shipping emissions yet available – per vessel, per journey and per kg of any globally traded commodity. It has the potential to fill one of the most important gaps in current international climate negotiations.
P2CS and the SEI Global Finance Initiative are using the data transparency architecture developed by Trase to create a new public data visualization platform of flows of climate and development finance from OECD countries.
Current work under P2CS also includes new developments to SEI’s footprinting tool IOTA. IOTA models how more than 150 agricultural commodities flow through the global economy to the end-consumer. This model is used to calculate detailed emissions and natural resource footprints of consumption.
Another P2CS-linked project, IKnowFood, is helping the British government’s Global Food Security programme to assess the sustainability and resilience of British food supply chains. This will lay the groundwork for a decision-support system for British retailers and manufacturers. The project’s work package on supply chain resilience, led by SEI York, is integrating IOTA, Trase and other data.
While Trase provides detailed information on the production end of supply chains, IOTA shows how commodities flow through economies to the final consumer. Several projects besides IKnowFood are linking IOTA and Trase data for even fuller supply chain coverage. These include a chapter in the high-profile WWF Living Planet Report, and work led by the Luc Hoffman Institute to investigate biodiversity impacts of soy cropland expansion in the Brazilian cerrado, a global biodiversity hotspot.
At the level of household and individual consumption, SEI has supported the development of numerous footprint calculators. With the latest of these, the household carbon footprint calculator Klimatkalkylatorn, individuals can estimate their own carbon footprints and see their hotspots for different activities such as heating their home, travel or food. Klimatkalkylatorn is implemented with WWF.
P2CS has supported work to investigate how SEI’s footprinting tools could be developed in the future. The focus is on scoping for a new tool that local governments to use in consumption-based environmental accounting, drawing on the latest data and methodologies developed under P2CS. Connected to this work, SEI is supporting Swedish municipalities in estimating the greenhouse gas emissions connected to household consumption with data gathering and tool development. At the same time, the team is researching related governance aspects in a three-year project, UNLOCK, on understanding local government drivers for sustainable consumption; along with a seed project investigating how consumption-based indicators are used for learning and policy-making.
PRINCE (for Policy Relevant Indicators for National Consumption and Environment) was a multi-partner project within the P2CS family that investigated new ways to calculate the environmental impacts of Sweden’s consumption – and in particular to determine where in the world those impacts fall. SEI helped PRINCE to link Swedish environmental-economic accounts with a multi-regional input-output model, and to develop indicators of the impacts of Swedish consumption for a range of environmental pressures globally. As part of this, SEI researchers helped to develop world-first indicators on aggregated use and emissions of hazardous substances, capture fisheries, deforestation impacts, water scarcity-weighted water footprint indicators and more.
Governance and transformation in producer-to-consumer systems
Increasing sustainability in production-to-consumption systems raises many challenging, interdisciplinary questions. Data, indicators and models can provide estimates on the impacts associated with current production and consumption patterns. But it is the people in and around the supply chains who determine what those patterns are, and could potentially act on the findings to bring about change.
From its inception, P2CS has been exploring governance within producer-to-consumer systems: the actors involved; their perceptions, understanding, motivations and barriers; the institutions they operate within.
Governance across systems
A major study in the first phase of P2CS looked at the producer-to-consumer system of Indonesian palm oil exports to Europe. This included interviews with actors throughout the system, from smallholder farmers to civil society actors, traders and European governments – revealing the need for more pluralistic and coordinated strategies to make the system more environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.
A review of supply chain sustainability and transparency identifies some of the shortcomings and systematic biases of existing information systems, and proposed principles for a more positive, transformative transparency that embraces both supply-side and demand-side agendas.
Some exciting new projects funded by P2CS are looking at rubber production and sustainable certification in Thailand, and at governance and sustainability issues in the gold supply chain for electronic products.
Focus on roles and opportunities
Several P2CS-related activities zero in on the governance roles of particular actors in commodity supply chains. For example, one seed project is looking at the role of finance in governance of supply chains and what potential opportunities if offers to support sustainability efforts.
Another focuses on smallholders associated with forest-risk agricultural commodities. It investigates their perspectives on sustainability and climate risk – issues that directly affect them and yet are typically “owned” by other actors, who may impose measures with little regard for the smallholders themselves.
Several projects are focused on better understanding the drivers and governance of consumption. The UNLOCK project in Sweden is investigating opportunities and barriers for sustainable consumption by local governments, and the potential role of local governments in facilitating sustainable consumption by households. Two ongoing P2CS-funded seed projects are looking at how and how far footprint indicators foster learning among policy-makers, and at understanding consumption systems, both using Sweden as a case study.
P2CS is collaborating with the SEI Initiative on Behaviour and Choice on better understanding consumer attitudes. It has also established links with the Gender and Social Equity programme to strengthen the integration these perspectives across P2CS work.
Another project in Sweden, commissioned by WWF, analysed consumption impacts from Swedish households and local governments, and identified priority areas for mitigation. The study produced two reports (on household consumption and on public-sector consumption; both in Swedish) that propose a combination of policy measures, with emphasis on those that could bring about transformative change to behaviours, norms and habits.
Economics for a sustainability transition
One final seed project takes P2CS’s work even further towards an agenda for transformative change. Both consumers and producers have a role to play in a sustainability transition. But it is not always how the agendas fit together when designing either supply and demand-side policies.
To address this challenge, P2CS invested in a seed project to build a whole-economy systems model to assess the economic and environmental impacts of reductions in consumption achieved by measures such as “downshifting”. This work fills a unique gap in policy analysis, helping explore whether and how the often contrasting recommendations for producers and consumers can be reconciled.
A number of other economic research papers explore how different aspects of the economic system operate (e.g. Kemp-Benedict 2018), and how this can help us to understand questions like whether an absolute decoupling of economic output and total energy and material throughput is possible (e.g. Kemp-Benedict 2018).