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Towards a harmonized framework for assessing the sustainability of agricultural value chains: identification of key challenges and perspectives for research

Basset-Mens C., Biard Y., Fabiano F., Feschet P., Lançon F., Martin P., Mendez Del Villar P., Rafflegeau S.. 2016. In : AC and SD 2016 Agri-Chains and Sustainable Development: linking local and global dynamics. Montpellier : CIRAD, p. 229-231. International Conference on Agri-Chains and Sustainable Development, 2016-12-12/2016-12-14, Montpellier (France).

Background and objectives. In recent years, public authorities and society at large have expressed a growing concern about sustainability issues, which have officially been captured by the signature of the 2030 agenda and the formulation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that guide international development cooperation operations. As a consequence of these trends, new needs are emerging in terms of assessment of value chains including agricultural value chains. On one hand, the actors of the value chains increasingly look for assessment methods that can measure the performances and impacts of their operations not only in terms of competitiveness but also in terms of contribution to sustainable development, in order to comply with private standards, national or international regulations and also to anticipate reputational risks. On the other hand, public and private actors and international donors need to evaluate their policies and programs in support of agricultural chains' development not only in terms of their potential as economic multipliers and generators of foreign currency, but also in terms of their capacity to contribute to the sustainable development of the territory where they are based. As an institution focused on applied research for agricultural development, CIRAD has long lasting records of partnership with a large range of players of agricultural value chains, both in a local and national context or at the global level (Griffon 1990; Fabre et al., 1997, Temple et al. 2007). Over the decades its field of investigation went beyond agronomic issues per se, encompassing socio-economic and environmental challenges from the production level down to the supply of agricultural processed products. As part of an institution in charge of supporting public and private decision making, CIRAD staff is challenged by its partners on how to evaluate the impact of, and contribution to sustainable development of value-chains. CIRAD has accumulated a significant capital of expertise in the field of agro-technical analysis, economic analysis, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and more recently developed new capacities in the evaluation of social impact of agri-chains (Feschet, 2014). This asset provides the ground to participate fruitfully to the assessment of value chains' contribution to sustainable development. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the objectives pursued and propositions made by a task force of CIRAD scholars working on a harmonized conceptual framework for evaluating the contribution of agri-chains to sustainable development. Issues. Historically, Value Chains have been assessed on the basis of their financial (from the entrepreneur perspective) or economic (from the policy maker perspective) performances using a range of benefit/cost indicators (Fabre 1994, Monke, 1989). Since the seventies the development and methodological consolidation of Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) offers a sound ground to assess the environmental impacts of the VC. The social and commonly called third dimension of the sustainability framework has been so far much more difficult to capture through methodologies that are unanimously recognized and applied by professionals (Seuring 2012). The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) relies on a battery of indicators defined within a specific context and is relevant for global value chains driven by large and formal companies and their suppliers with reputational and organizational interest in implementing a CSR strategy. However, beyond the specificity of value chains where this approach is applied, it also lacks a proper conceptual framework linking the human interventions with actual impacts on social well-being. Besides, there are very few attempts to build an integrated measure of the contribution of a value chain to sustainable development. Most of the analytical tools developed for an integrated assessment of the sustainability in the past decade are conceived at a macro-scale such a...

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