Framework for sustainability assessment of the value chain of flowering potted plants for the German market

The value chain of flowering potted plants (FPP) is associated with environmental, social, and economic sustainability challenges. Indicator-based assessment methods can provide insights into the sustainability performance of agricultural value chains. The FPP value chain is not comparable to other agricultural systems and therefore cannot be assessed with existing indicator-based tools. In this study, a framework was developed for the sustainability assessment of the FPP value chain, from breeding to distribution. The development of the framework involved defining sustainability themes and subthemes based on the characterization of the value chain and the investigation of social, environmental, and economic sustainability challenges. The generic sustainability assessment tools, Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture Systems (SAFA) and Response-Inducing Sustainability Evaluation (RISE), provided the foundation for indicator selection and development.

The current study emphasized the need for a system-specific view, especially in unique systems such as the FPP value chain, because generic assessment tools, such as SAFA and RISE, do not cover all sustainability subthemes. Most of the indicators missing from generic assessment tools were environmental indicators. Environmental assessment is closely related to value chain stages and product-specific processes, therefore indicators were allocated according to the value chain stages, breeding, production, and distribution. Social sustainability themes are influenced by national and regional socio-economic conditions, such as government provision of healthcare and a social safety net. Therefore, indicators are allocated based on geographical regions and stakeholder groups. The economic subthemes are determined by industry structure and sector-specific conditions.

The ornamental sector is characterized by low margins and high uncertainty, related to profitability and vulnerability. Despite the initial evaluation performed in the current study, in the next step, industry actors need to determine the feasibility of the indicators. The implementation of the framework developed in the current study will provide further insights into the value chain, which will guide actors in taking actions for performance improvement and provide guidance for policy-makers in setting sustainability targets.

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Havardi-Burger, Nirit & Mempel, Heike & Bitsch, Vera. (2021). Framework for sustainability assessment of the value chain of flowering potted plants for the German market. Journal of Cleaner Production. 329. 129684. 10.1016/j.jclepro.2021.129684. 

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