Trends and drivers of end-use energy demand and the implications for managing energy in food supply chains: Synthesising insights from the social sciences

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The Climate Change Act commits the UK Government to an ambitious 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; this paper provides a consumer focused framework to devise, inform and evaluate potential interventions to reduce energy demand and emissions in food supply chains. Adopting a Life cycle Assessment (LCA) framing we explore the relationship between production and consumption by reviewing trends in the food sector with implications for energy demand. Secondly, a multidisciplinary review of the literature on sustainable consumption is structured around the ISM (Individual, Social, Material Contexts) framework devised by Southerton et al., bringing insights from a range of theoretical perspectives. Combined, these frameworks complement LCA approaches to mapping and quantifying emissions hotspots in a supply chain in two ways.

First, production and consumption must be considered with the ‘consumer’ interactive throughout, one of many factors affecting energy use at each stage, rather than restricted to the end of a supply chain. Second, when considering consumption patterns and how they might be changed, drawing on the insights of multiple disciplines allows for a fuller array of potential interventions to be identified. Given the complexity of the food system and the range of relevant sustainability goals, there are several areas in which the ‘preferred trajectories’ for ‘more sustainable’ consumption patterns are unclear, particularly where data on variation, causal relationships and longitudinal change is lacking. Technical and social understandings of ‘desirable’ change in the food sector must continue to be developed in parallel to achieve such challenging reductions in emissions.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalSustainable Production and Consumption
Early online date11 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016

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