Abstract: Food system sustainability is a major issue of concern for policy makers. Feeding an increasing world population without compromising the endowment of natural resources or worsening the environmental crisis is, indeed, a major challenge. The need to boost sustainable and productive farming systems and enhance resource efficiency has been acknowledged by European Union policy in its 2020 Strategy. This study assesses the impact of some Italian foodstuffs and agricultural products in terms of material requirement, using the Material Input Per Service unit (MIPS) indicator. The conventional, organic and post-organic agricultural practice called Ma-Pi polyculture is investigated. Results show that, in spite of higher yields obtained by conventional agriculture, material efficiency of organic crops and foodstuffs is generally higher. Moreover, a drastic enhancement of material efficiency is achievable using agronomic practices that minimize the employment of external inputs. As a tool for evaluating the environmental sustainability of agricultural products, MIPS allows focusing on a priority policy area, i.e., resource efficiency, which could be easily employed for driving agricultural systems towards a sustainable intensification. Data quality and availability of Material Input (MI) factors remains, however, a constraining issue for the applicability of the indicator.
Abstract: Policy has so far not taken full advantage of the tools offered by the “material flows” school of thought. Resource Productivity (RP) is amongst the normative concepts currently popular among policy makers the nearest one to Material Input Per Service unit (MIPS). However, the RP concept falls substantially short of the MIPS idea, as it puts resource use in relation to the monetary value of production, while MIPS makes reference to services actually delivered by the products. Moreover, the indicator currently used by the European Commission for monitoring RP lacks in life-cycle perspective, which is essential in the MIPS concept. The present paper illustrates, by using Italian case evidence, some of the current RP indicator shortcomings and it discusses a possible alternative, by introducing the life-cycle perspective. In Italy, RP has grown faster than both energy and labour productivity since 1980. This apparently shows that Italy is moving in the right direction. However, a deeper and more extensive analysis regarding the country’s natural resource requirements is necessary before a conclusion can be drawn about the sustainability of the Italian socio-economic process. Therefore, on the one hand we disaggregate material consumption (i.e., the denominator of RP) into its components; on the other hand we extend the analysis to overall material requirements, including indirect material flows associated with international trade. These analyses, although limited to used materials (i.e., to resource requirements in Raw Material Equivalents), demonstrate that the Italian success in increasing RP is largely due to the transferring abroad of material flows and ecological burden.
Abstract: The Wuppertal Institute developed, in the early 1990s, an input-oriented lifecycle-wide resource accounting method, the “Material Input per Service-Unit” concept (MIPS), today also referred to as “Material Footprint”. The official handbook applicable to products, services, and processes describes a MS Excel-based sequential approach for calculating MIPS. Today’s computing power, available to every researcher, and access to software and databases dedicated to lifecycle analysis make calculating MIPS using matrix inversion possible. This also opens up possibilities for enhancing MIPS-models programmatically: parameterizing the foreground and background systems, batch modeling for producing time series, and computational algorithms enhancing interpretation. The article provides (1) an overview of the methods and tools used for calculating MIPS from its origins to today, and (2) demonstrates some of the programmatically enhanced capabilities offered to MIPS-practitioners.
Abstract: The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing is the latest protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Its implementation can lead to two fundamentally different processes: a market-oriented self-regulatory approach, which emphasizes the self-regulating capacity of the economic actors involved, or a normative institutionalist approach, which focuses on the norms and formal rules of institutions that not only support and frame, but also shape and constrain the actions of the players acting within them. This paper analyzes the challenges related to the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol in the specific case of Belgium, and evaluates the possibility of moving from a self-regulatory to an institutional approach of implementation, which we argue is necessary to achieve the objectives of the Protocol. This move is analyzed in the specific multi-level governance context characterizing the Nagoya Protocol, which has a natural tendency towards a market-oriented self-regulatory approach.
Abstract: This paper demonstrates the potential of the mining industry to contribute to social development (community building, resilience and wellbeing) and to economic transitioning post-mining. A number of factors may facilitate the realisation of this potential, in particular community engagement activities that build community resilience and capacity to adapt to changing environments. This paper reviews a community foresight initiative, named Clermont Preferred Future (CPF), which is associated with a coal mine development in the town of Clermont in Queensland, Australia. The purpose of CPF, which was adopted in 2008 and is intended to continue to 2020, is to facilitate a transition to a prosperous and sustainable future by leveraging opportunities from coal mining while reducing dependence on the industry. CPF has been cited as a successful model of engagement and community development, and was highly commended in the Community Economic Development category at the 2011 Australian National Awards for Economic Development Excellence. This review draws on the experiences of stakeholders involved in CPF, and on foresight, community engagement, and community development literature. It identifies what has worked well, what has fallen short of the project’s rhetorical aspirations, and how processes and outcomes might be improved. It also trials artwork as an engagement tool. The findings are valuable for Clermont specifically, but also for the mining industry and mining communities more broadly, as well as for other industries in the context of community engagement and strategic planning.
Abstract: For policy makers, regulators and natural resource managers, the resources necessary for original empirical resource valuations are often unavailable. A common alternative to original valuation studies is the practice of benefit transfer—the use of an empirical value estimate or estimates from a previous study or studies for application in a similar context. In order to reduce the error inherent in applying values from one parcel of land to another, researchers commonly use meta-analysis, or the “study of studies”, to provide a more thorough and statistically valid value estimate for use in a benefit transfer. In the practice of benefit transfer, much emphasis has been placed on improving the validity of values for transfer, but fewer studies have focused on the appropriate application of the established estimates. In this article, several often disregarded concerns that should be addressed when practicing benefit transfer are identified. A special focus is placed on spatial considerations and the recent progress that has been made to incorporate spatial trends. Geographic information systems (GIS) are advocated as a useful tool for incorporating the spatial aspects of benefit transfer. Consensuses and trends in the literature are acknowledged, and areas of potential improvement are highlighted.