The sustainability of international agricultural supply chains is fast becoming an important issue. The World Bank (2012) forecasts that demand in the next five years for key agricultural commodities will outstrip supply due to several challenges including; climate change, volatile pricing and ageing farming population (Barrientos 2012).
Practitioner groups argue that sustainable governance arrangements between Northern actors and Southern producers leads to more resilient supply chains (UNCTAD 2013). However, the mechanisms by which this may be achieved are not clear, especially since the adoption of sustainability standards may limit the ability of producers to withstand shocks through the adoption of monoculture and dependent supply chain relations. Conversely, some supply chain relationships may enhance resilience, e.g. through reduced supplier default. Moreover, resilience in supply chains remains under-theorised, with few connections to the emerging theory on sustainable supply chains.
Hence the overall aim for BURNS is to better understand and begin to theorise the factors that underpin resilient supply chains, whilst recognising the diversity of practice across chains, commodities and supply chain actors. In order to do this the project has the following objectives:
a) To set up an academic and practitioner network to share best practice in supply chain management from a variety of models from fair trade partnerships to corporate supply initiatives.
b) Critically analyse current understanding of resilience and sustainability in agricultural supply chains from a variety of theoretical, legal and stakeholder perspectives.
c) Collate and share examples of current conceptual and contractual approaches to resilient supply chains that include upstream stakeholders’ perspectives.
d) Work with practitioner partners (manufacturers, traders, processors, fair trade organisations, NGOs and Southern Producer Groups etc.) to identify key aspects of resilient supply chains and case studies/ data sets that could underpin future in-depth research.
e) To develop a major research grant proposal.