Structuring the myriad of sustainability assessments in agri-food systems: A case in Flanders

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Actors in the agri-food system are increasingly urged to more sustainability, but actions to organize the
system's sustainable development encounter difficulties, such as overcoming trust between actors,
aligning different views on sustainability or finding the right tools to monitor sustainable development.
This suggests that more guidance is needed. Initiated by an open demand from leading actors of the
Flemish agri-food system, the objective of this research is to understand the myriad of sustainability
assessments in the agri-food system at different levels. First, we start from the actors in our case through
elucidating their expressed needs regarding sustainability assessment and through noting which approaches
they actually use to pursue sustainable development. We define two building blocks for sustainable
development and use them to structure the various approaches actors follow to achieve
sustainable development. For our case, we obtained five models to structure current, potential or desired
sustainability assessment approaches. This structuring allows reflections at the macro (food system) and
micro (industry or firm) level, which facilitates understanding the long term as well as short-term
sustainability goals in the complex context of an agri-food system. We conclude that sustainability
assessment and interaction between chain actors as equally important main drivers for the sustainable
development of the agri-food system, and understanding how they interfere helps guiding and steering
complex sustainable development processes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Issue number209
Pages (from-to)472-480
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • B410-agricultural-hydrology
  • Sustainable development process
  • Agri-food system
  • Sustainability assessment
  • Sustainable development


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