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A delphi-style approach for developing an integrated food/non-food system sustainability assessment tool

Mullender, S. M., Sandor, M., Pisanelli, A., Kozyra, J., Borek, R., Ghaley, B. B., Gliga, A., von Oppenkowski, M., Roesler, T., Sakanovic, E., Smith, J. and Smith, L. G. ORCID: (2020) A delphi-style approach for developing an integrated food/non-food system sustainability assessment tool. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 84. 106415. ISSN 0195-9255

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.eiar.2020.106415


Sustainability assessment is a complex field and its uptake amongst agricultural producers limited. Furthermore, the scope of current sustainability assessment tools does not extend to systems in which food production is integrated with production of non-food biomass (e.g. agroforestry). Participatory approaches to tool development offer a means to overcome the subjectivity of researcher-led tool design and thus the potential to increase relevance and engagement. In this work we develop a Delphi-style methodology as a means to produce a sustainability assessment tool suitable to assess and feedback on an integrated food/non-food system. Using a widely accepted agricultural sustainability framework and an existing farm sustainability assessment tool as a base, stakeholders were engaged with across six countries and multiple stakeholder groups to identify key indicators to be added to the tool. The methodology developed is described in detail, framed in the setting of this tool development process but providing a novel framework applicable to any situation where indicators must be developed for a complex issue of interest across multiple perspectives and stakeholder groups. Feedback and learning from the experience is provided. It was found that, contrary to some opinion, the inclusion of a face-to-face discussion round as part of the Delphi procedure provides a valuable means for information exchange and a move towards consensus amongst stakeholders. By using a ‘snowball’ approach to the in person discussions, it appears too that the loss of the voices of more socially retiring individuals can be avoided. Final levels of agreement vary substantially across the different areas of sustainability, with indicators in some areas (e.g. environmental integrity) proving much less controversial than others (e.g. social wellbeing). Despite this, the methodology effectively reaches a level of consensus amongst diverse stakeholders sufficient to guide the selection of sustainability indicators with a good level of confidence.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:No Reading authors. Back catalogue items
ID Code:106261

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