Organizing Supply Chain Processes for Sustainable Innovation in the Agri-Food Industry: Volume 5

Cover of Organizing Supply Chain Processes for Sustainable Innovation in the Agri-Food Industry
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Table of contents

(20 chapters)
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Acknowledgements

Pages xvii-xviii
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Purpose

This chapter introduces the volume’s theme by describing the challenges of sustainability in the agri-food industry and the critical role of agri-food supply chains. Following a description of traditional and sustainable supply chain management practices, we discuss the likely characteristics of sustainability-oriented innovations and how organizations pursuing higher levels of economic, social, and environmental performance will need to adapt their capabilities.

Methodology/approach

Drawing on the emerging concepts and practices from sustainable supply chain management as well as traditional and emerging concepts from innovation, we develop general propositions and expectations about how organizations might address sustainable effectiveness in their supply chains. The importance of the agri-food industry to all three pillars of sustainable effectiveness and predictions about the inability to feed future populations gives the discussion a certain urgency.

Findings

Sustainability-oriented innovations in the agri-food supply chain are different from traditional innovations. We develop propositions regarding the driving motivations, their nature and scope (i.e., more radical and systemic than incremental and focused), and the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach. The 10 cases presented in the volume are summarized.

Purpose

This chapter explores two business and innovation strategies to increase sustainability in a small-medium enterprise. The two strategies, one addressing the improved sustainability of an existing product line and the other addressing the development and implementation of a new product line, employ different supply chain sustainable practices and utilize different dynamic capabilities.

Methodology/approach

The chapter describes how sustainable supply chain management practices, sustainable new product development processes, and theories of dynamic capabilities interact to support a sustainable and differentiated strategy in the Alcass organization.

Findings

The models of sustainable supply chain management and sustainable new product development are applied to “more sustainable” products and “new sustainable” products, by raising different relevant practices as well as different supporting dynamic capabilities.

Purpose

The chapter describes and reflects upon an EU-funded research initiative, TRADEIT, which has attempted to develop a learning network among European traditional food producers as one way of contributing to the economic sustainability of the ventures, the social sustainability of the food’s regional character and the environmental sustainability of food production through the use of traditional methods.

Methodology/approach

The chapter describes TRADEIT before moving on to an exploration of learning in organizations and networks. It outlines the action learning research methodology developed and implemented to explore the development of a learning network in TRADEIT. A single case history is presented to illustrate the engagement of a small food producer in the network.

Findings

The discussion reflects on the application of action learning in supporting sustainability evident in TRADEIT.

Originality/value

The chapter focuses on the application of action learning in the development of a learning network among traditional food producers across Europe.

Purpose

This chapter explores the reconstruction of the illy’s coffee supply chain in Brazil. The original supply chain was disrupted by fluctuating prices and inefficiencies and renovated based on network relationships between the focal company and the coffee growers. It describes the peculiar experience of illycaffe (an international coffee roaster based in Italy) in building social capital into its supply chain and resulting in a more sustainable network.

Methodology/approach

The chapter summarizes the development of different types of social capital and applies the concepts to understand illy’s journey towards quality and supply chain sustainability. The research design is consistent with theory elaboration from a single case study.

Findings

The chapter applies social capital theory to food commodity supply chains. The evolution to a more reliable and sustainable supply chain for illy’s Arabica coffee in Brazil suggests that supply chain relationships are a crucial asset for the focal firm, the local communities, and society at large. Results also show that developing such relationships might lead to better product quality, supply chain sustainability, and improved supply base capabilities.

Originality/value

The findings of this chapter contribute to the definition of a relational governance model for global food commodity supply chains. From a research standpoint, the empirical setting allows analyses of antecedents and consequences of different social capital components in the food supply chain. In addition, the case may help executives understand how to leverage supply chain relationships and identify a path to product quality and supply chain sustainability.

Purpose

We investigate the innovative supply chain contracts developed and implemented by Barilla, the leading Italian pasta company, in sourcing high-quality durum wheat from farmers in Northern Italy in the Emilia Romagna region.

Methodology/approach

Using case study techniques to gather information, we captured the evolution of the supply chain contracts adopted by Barilla. We gained information mainly through semi-structured interviews with Barilla’s managers, co-op and consortium managers representing farmers, Barilla’s quantitative data related to contracts’ elements and structure, preliminary experimental results, agri-business magazines, industry reports, and academic literature.

Findings

These contracts helped the company improve not only its long-term profits and strategic objectives such as supply security, but also the farmers’ income as well as environmental sustainability, thus providing triple bottom line benefits.

Originality/value

We investigate how Barilla and its suppliers – with the support of additional stakeholders, such as regional institutions – combine in their innovative contracts fixed and market-based prices as well as quality and sustainability-based premiums for desired triple bottom line benefits.

Purpose

This chapter examines the role of stakeholders, cocreation, and pro-environmental behaviors in Google’s efforts to reduce the environmental impact of their food waste. It describes several different strategies that the company undertook and the outcomes of those efforts. These efforts ranged from working with suppliers and employees to use food that was normally wasted to implementing a waste measuring and feedback system. The case highlights the challenges, current impact, and risks of the different strategies.

Methodology/approach

The chapter covers the theories and models of stakeholder influence on sustainability, new product development through cocreation, and pro-environmental behaviors; it applies these concepts to Google’s food waste program.

Findings

The results of the study contribute to the frameworks on cocreation and stakeholder management to include ideas for encouraging pro-environmental behavior through various social practices (measuring and monitoring waste, building supply chain partnerships, and cocreating new products with stakeholders).

Originality/value

The findings of this chapter will help other companies with ideas for successfully reducing food waste and its environmental impact by illustrating new ideas for engaging stakeholders in the supply chain.

Purpose

This chapter highlights factors, such as stakeholder engagement and changes in operating processes, which can enable retailers to implement an alternative approach to recovering and redistributing fresh surplus food.

Methodology/approach

A successful fresh surplus food redistribution program was identified as part of a larger research project on food waste and redistribution. The “Buon Fine” program of a large Italian retailer (Coop Lombardia) was described by two senior executives who were interviewed for four hours using a semi-structured questionnaire. Collected information was triangulated with corporate reports and other publications.

Findings

Coop Lombardia implemented an expanded supply chain by cooperating with municipalities and food aid organizations. Such a process differed in important ways from the traditional “food bank” model. The latter organizations collected and distributed surplus food to disfavored populations.

Originality/value

The findings of this chapter will help senior executives of retail trade companies to improve the sustainability of their supply chain and help policymakers address food poverty to improve food security in their territory.

Purpose

This chapter explores the potential economic advantages and disadvantages of reusable plastic containers (RPCs) in the transport of fresh produce from growers to retail stores. The empirical research linking packaging to quantifiable economic and social benefits is reviewed. This study answers the question – what are the economic and social impacts of increased standardization of bulk packaging in the North American fresh produce supply chains? Implications for the potential use of RPCs and its impact on sustainability are explored.

Methodology/approach

The chapter describes data from grocery retailers who have implemented both one-way and reusable plastic containers for fresh produce distribution. A Time-Driven Activity-Based Costing (TD-ABC) analysis was conducted to capture and evaluate process times and product damage associated with the typical deployment of bulk containers in the grocery retailers’ distribution centers (DC), retail stores, and asset recovery centers of the supply chain. Economic measures were implemented and together with the social dimensions provided insights about sustainability-based implications.

Findings

Fresh produce shipments using the RPC technology had significantly less waste and damage representing potential social and economic benefits. The empirical findings included results about the economic impact of RPCs on the sustainability level of a typical supply chain for fresh food products.

Originality/value

The quantification of the economic and potential social sustainability for the explored packaging types constitutes an important contribution. Much of the previous research did not contain comprehensive assessments. The impact of technological change – the introduction and use of RPC in packaging – is examined. In addition, the supply chain scope for this research included most of the major activities that involve the packaging of fresh produce commodities in its practical dynamics.

Purpose

This chapter presents the case study of Origin Green, the Irish food industry’s national program that committed the entire supply chain to meet sustainability targets and simultaneously branded the efforts and outcomes to increase demand for Irish food products. The brand creation is discussed under headings of building predictability, creating innovative capacity, and facilitating an intimate relationship.

Methodology/approach

The chapter describes supply chain risk mitigation, brand development, and the relationship between the two, proposing that they should be regarded as simultaneous rather than separate processes. This is followed by the case history of Origin Green.

Findings

The literatures on risk mitigation and brand equity development are extended by suggesting that the development of each should be regarded as simultaneous rather than consecutive activities.

Practical implications

The chapter outlines a program for national branding and sustainability and an insight on risk mitigation and branding that should be of interest to policymakers designing such programs and senior leaders considering involvement.

Originality/value

This chapter will be useful to policymakers considering national or industry-wide initiatives. Further, the chapter demonstrates the opportunity and challenges of systemic approaches to sustainability. The opportunity to brand nations and systems and the need to simultaneously build supply chain and brand for such is an original insight that is of value to strategy and planning. Similarly, at firm level, removing risk from the supply chain and building a brand would be of value.

Purpose

Applying concepts from the theory of complex adaptive systems, we investigated the emergence over time of a local foods system that embodies values of traditional agriculture and the preservation of the earth and its biodiversity, community, and equitable access to food. The purpose was to learn, from this place-based transformation, the process of self-organization that can underpin a transition from an unsustainable food system primarily based on values of wealth creation to one where resources are used in a sustainable manner.

Methodology/approach

The local foods system of Northeast Ohio was examined through interviews with key agents in the system at three points in time ranging from 2007 to 2016, and through the collection of archival data chronicling various aspects of the system. Qualitative data were coded and analyzed in a multi-dimensional manner that focused on variation and interaction (exchange of resources) of agents through time.

Findings

The system has evolved to be increasingly complex both in numbers and kinds of agents. Collective agency has enabled increased capacity in the system to address the diverse purposes of participants. Yet in this self-organizing system, securing resources for longer term, collective focuses required to advance the local food system has proved to be a challenge.

Originality/value

This longitudinal and qualitative approach shines a light on how common and diverse purposes shape the unfolding of complex social systems with expanded capabilities.

Purpose

This chapter aims to understand how partnerships and networks can aid the development and growth of organizations whose goal is to foster social inclusion along the agro-food supply chain, with particular reference to the social entrepreneurship sector.

Methodology/approach

The chapter draws on a framework proposed by Newth and Woods (2014) to identify the main drivers of resistance to the development of social entrepreneurship. The empirical evidence is based on a single case, involving an Italian social enterprise, Semi di Libertà, which produces high-quality artisan beer. Case material included an analysis of organization documents and interviews with key actors.

Findings

The case study shows how Semi di Libertà faced different types of resistance, related to formal and informal institutions and market drivers, and leveraged partnerships with other actors in the ecosystem. Some of these partnerships were planned a priori to overcome specific problems (e.g., the Prison’s Authority, Mastri Birrai). Other partnerships were developed “by chance” (e.g., “peer” associations) but turned out to be particularly important to deal with the above resistances.

Research limitations/implications

The case study methodology prevents the authors from generalizing too far past the obtained results. However, key elements from the case, such as the relevance of “spontaneous” partnerships and those with “peer” organizations, could be taken into account for similar initiatives in different contexts.

Originality/value

Recent literature has highlighted the relevance of partnerships in scaling social enterprises but has not explored the dynamics whereby these partnerships are created and developed. This chapter provides some preliminary evidence of how partnerships can be used to overcome the resistance limiting the growth of social entrepreneurship and the sustainability of socially inclusive initiatives.

Purpose

This chapter compares and discusses the 10 sustainability-oriented food supply chain innovations described in the previous chapters. Our purpose is to address and reflect on the questions and challenges introduced in the first chapter.

Methodology/approach

The cases are first analyzed in terms of the extent to which the innovations were motivated and impacted the social, environmental, and economic dimensions of sustainability. The various sustainable food supply chain practices adopted are compared. The third section explores the innovation strategies used in the cases, including the type of strategy, the breadth and level of innovativeness of the strategy, the governance approach, and the extent of capability development required. The final section presents our conclusions.

Findings

The results suggest that to become truly sustainable, companies need to adopt a broad set of practices that address all three dimensions of sustainability, and develop strategies to make the sustainability-oriented innovation economically viable. The more radical and systemic the innovation, the more difficult it is to generate these outcomes.

Cover of Organizing Supply Chain Processes for Sustainable Innovation in the Agri-Food Industry
DOI
10.1108/S2045-060520165
Publication date
2016-08-20
Book series
Organizing for Sustainable Effectiveness
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78635-488-4
eISBN
978-1-78635-487-7
Book series ISSN
2045-0605