This teaching unit provides tools for a systemic understanding of ongoing transitions in the food chains, from a social science perspective. Mixing interventions in marketing, management, economics and engineering sciences, it links value chains to life cycle analyses, and proposes an interdisciplinary approach to sustainable behaviors.
From a management perspective, the course focuses on sustainable issues and practices at work throughout the value chains, from producers to consumers. It aims at understanding the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) appearance and development mainly characterized by the proliferation of voluntary standards and multi‐ stakeholders initiatives at national and international scales and the introduction of new practices concerning social and environmental management. Based on case studies using strategical, political and critical approaches, students will analyze CSR practices to grasp their impacts, limits and transformative potential.
In terms of sustainable consumption, the course aims at understanding the relationships between food consumption practices, market devices (rules and standards, advertising and packaging, supply chains and retail places…) and sustainable development goals (waste reduction, environmental protection, development of small producers…). At the end of the unit, students should be able to grasp the complexity of sustainable consumption practices (attitude‐behavior gaps, contradictions…), to understand the way these practices are shaped and enabled by the market devices, and to analyze the various impacts in terms of sustainability of the different ways of agencing sustainable consumption.
The students will also be involved in an interdisciplinary exercise linking economics and life cycle analysis using the example of biofuel development. First, the exercise will focus on how economic modelling can help us to understand the complex interactions between land and labor markets, international agricultural prices and demand for agricultural commodities. Second, they will implement a life cycle analysis of biofuels in order to understand the impact of their development on the environment. This exercise both allows to acquire new skills and knowledge but also to grasp the challenges linked to the development of interdisciplinary studies.
During specific sessions, students will also be invited to take a step back from the content of the course in order to better highlight the levers and constraints for transitions in the food chain. Students will thus be encouraged to project themselves as future actors in these food chains but also as drivers for the transitions.
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Tools and methods
The tools used require the students to participate actively in the construction of the course. Part of the course is based on case studies in various fields to illustrate the theoretical concepts presented during the course. Moreover, the student will also be introduced to the methodology of life cycle assessment methods.
The key concepts are related to sustainable consumption and production, from concerns to behavior and production processes. The course mainly relies on life cycle analysis, CSR and basic notions of microeconomics.