TRUE colleagues from work packages (WP) 5 (environment), 6 (socio-economics) and 8 (transition pathways) have been collaborating intensely at a workshop hosted by Luiza Toma and Shailesh Shrestha at the SRUC in Edinburgh. On the way to Edinburgh from Galway I found myself struggling to grasp how the big sustainability model that Marko Debeljak and his team are developing is going to function across five nodes (producer, processor, transport, retailer & consumer) and multiple dimensions (environment, economy, society). How could this grand model integrate all our life cycle assessment (LCA) data with economic and social data, using discreet indicators, and come up with anything meaningful? Why replicate the intensive quantitative analysis of legume value chain environmental sustainability that we are undertaking in WP 5 using LCA? Who is going to use this model?
After an hour talking though these questions at the start of our workshop on Wednesday morning, I was still a little confused, and, I must confess, a bit sceptical. However, we duly split into groups, with Sophie Saget and myself joining Marko to work through the environment model. After 30 minutes exploring the model structure and beginning to enter some discreet indicators under Marko’s direction, the pieces suddenly began to fall into place. This tool is about identifying value chain linkages and actions associated with higher or lower levels of environmental sustainability. It enables users to identify important control points within nodes and across value chains. It doesn’t replicate quantitative value chain assessment, but provides insight into linkages. At last, enlightenment!
The rest of the two days flew by as we developed a whole draft model for the environment dimension. A sense of competitiveness grew between us and the economics team (or maybe it was just us…) as we raced to complete the draft model. Sophie and her fellow PhD student on WP5, Marcela Porto Costa, had diligently undertaken the “homework” requested by Marko before the workshop; as a result Sophie had the recommended UN FAO SAFA (Sustainability Assessment of Food & Agricultural systems) indicator list to hand, along with Product Environmental Footprint guidelines. This really speeded things up. Travelling back from Edinburgh, I am confident that this collaboration will generate useful outputs, and invaluable insight to legume value chain sustainability, that will complement the product footprints we are developing in WP5.
In the meantime, Sophie, Marcela, Mike and me in WP5 look forward to the TRUE annual meeting in Porto in July, and can’t wait to show off our latest footprints of gin and “meatballs” made from peas, and pasta made from chickpeas. Hopefully we’ll have the first legume-modified rotations modelled too (obtaining all the data needed to do that is another story…). Here’s to a busy and TRUE-ly productive summer!