Special Issue "Agricultural Value Chains: Innovations and Sustainability"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Wildlife".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2020.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Gianluca Brunori
Guest Editor
Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Pisa University, Pisa, Italy
Interests: agricultural economics; rural development; rural sociology; agri-food marketing
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Allison Loconto
Guest Editor
National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), Interdisciplinary Laboratory on Science, Innovation and Society (LISIS), University of Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée, Marne la Vallée, France
Interests: value chains; innovation; standards and certification; sustainable agriculture; agroecology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The Special Issue on “The Agricultural Value Chains: Innovations and Sustainability” aims at gathering papers that study how farmers and food businesses deal with the challenge of sustainability by introducing technical, organizational, and social innovations. In recent years, sustainability has become a key factor of innovation. Companies are introducing sustainability strategies both to consolidate their brand reputation and to differentiate their products in an increasingly competitive market. Sustainability criteria, if adequately communicated, have the power to appeal to a growing segment of consumers concerned with the environment, health, and social and ethical issues. This has important implications for the governance of value chains, as sustainability strategies imply the realignment of all actors of the chain around new values and often new connections with actors who are not usually considered within a supply chain logic. This growing interest for sustainability, however, is accompanied with the growth of inaccurate or misleading sustainability claims, which may undermine consumers’ trust. Papers for this Special Issue will provide theory and evidence of these tendencies, will show how the meaning of sustainability is turned into product standards, how these meanings are transmitted along the value chain, how consumers react to these standards and related communications, and what controversies are being generated by sustainability claims. In addition to these concerns over the consumer interface of sustainability in value chains, additional attention will be given to the role of farmers in the value chains: What are the innovation pathways farmers follow to capture the opportunities of the growing demand for sustainability? Will the power balance in the value chain change as an effect of the turn to sustainability? What are the value chain configurations that help a favorable integration with the markets? In this way, the Special Issue will seek to merge the sometimes divergent fields of consumer studies and innovation studies in agri-food systems.

Prof. Gianluca Brunori
Dr. Allison Loconto
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • value chains
  • sustainability standards
  • certification
  • labels
  • consumer communication
  • social innovation
  • innovation pathways
  • supply chains
  • alternative agri-food networks

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Open AccessArticle
Sustainability Challenges and Innovations in the Value Chain of Flowering Potted Plants for the German Market
Sustainability 2020, 12(5), 1905; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12051905 - 03 Mar 2020
This study investigated the sustainability challenges and the adoption of sustainability innovations along the value chain of flowering potted plants supplying the German market. Data was collected through eighteen in-depths interviews with chain actors from different stages of the value chain and analyzed [...] Read more.
This study investigated the sustainability challenges and the adoption of sustainability innovations along the value chain of flowering potted plants supplying the German market. Data was collected through eighteen in-depths interviews with chain actors from different stages of the value chain and analyzed through qualitative content analysis. The material flow of the value chain begins at the breeding level followed by the propagation level. Cuttings are produced mostly in African countries, rooted cuttings and potted plants are cultivated in Europe. The main environmental challenges include water scarcity, pesticide use and carbon footprint. Social challenges in Africa include low wages and difficult working conditions. In Germany, social challenges include recruitment and retention of employees and product transparency. Economic challenges include profitability and the need to comply with standards. Sustainability driven innovations can address some sustainability challenges. However, their implementation often leads to increased costs, financial risk and complexity of implementation. Furthermore, the lack of product transparency prevents the transfer of sustainability costs to the consumer by offering a sustainable product for a premium price. Business-to-business standards have generally had a positive influence on the adoption of sustainability innovations. But by setting certification as an entry barrier for suppliers, retailers have become more powerful chain actors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agricultural Value Chains: Innovations and Sustainability)
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