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Demand-side actors in agricultural supply chain sustainability: an assessment of motivations for action, implementation challenges, and research frontiers

In this article the authors explore how demand-side actors within globalized supply chains see limitations in knowledge and barriers to progress in the context of forest-risk commodities.

Carina Mueller, Chris West, Mairon G. Bastos Lima / Published on 26 September 2023

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Citation

Mueller, C., West, C., Bastos Lima, M.G., & Doherty, B. (2023). Demand-Side Actors in Agricultural Supply Chain Sustainability: An Assessment of Motivations for Action, Implementation Challenges, and Research Frontiers. World, 4, 569-588. https://doi.org/10.3390/world4030035.

Agricultural supply chains of forest-risk commodities such as soy, palm oil, and cocoa have risen to the top of the global sustainability agenda. Demand-side actors, including consumer-goods companies, retailers, and civil society organizations have coalesced around a growing number of sustainable supply chain policies. However, despite rapid advances in tools and methods to convert data into useful information about impacts and policy effectiveness, and their implementation for decision-making is lagging. There is an urgent need to examine such demand-led action and understand how to accelerate progress towards agricultural supply chain sustainability.

In this article the authors explore how demand-side actors within globalized supply chains see limitations in knowledge and barriers to progress in the context of forest-risk commodities. They draw from 20 semi-structured interviews and two focus group discussions with manufacturers, retailers, NGOs, and data providers. Their findings show that civil society pressure in consumer regions is perceived as a key driver guiding action, that certification is commonly sought to reduce detrimental impacts, but that collaboration to tackle systemic issues remains a gap. Companies also highlight the need for simple, timely, and meaningful metrics to assess impacts—practical usability concerns that need to be considered in the search for ever-greater accuracy in capturing complex phenomena.

Truck body full of freshly harvested soybeans. Truck full of soybeans traveling in a road.

Truck body full of freshly harvested soybeans traveling in a road.

Photo: Lucas Ninno / Getty Images

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Open access

SEI authors

Carina Mueller
Carina Mueller

Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

Chris West

Deputy Centre Director (Research)

SEI York

Mairon G. Bastos Lima
Mairon G. Bastos Lima

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

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