- Below are descriptions of some areas of my research.
Supply chain transparency for a sustainable cattle trade I am working together with Trase to increase the transparency of cattle supply chains in Brazil. We use 'big data' approaches to link cattle from different regions to the domestic and international markets which consume them. First, we have mapped exports of cattle from more than 2,800 municipalities in Brazil through to 152 importing countries, via thousands of companies handling their export and import. The data are summarized here and freely available on www.trase.earth/. Second, we are extending our work to include beef sold within Brazil's domestic market - which consumes 80% of Brazil's beef. Together with partners at UCLouvain and Repórter Brasil, we launched an app and citizen science initiative Do Pasto ao Prato (From Pasture to Plate), which allows shoppers to scan product labels in the supermarket, find out more about the impact of the product, and contribute valuable information about where products are sold. Ultimately, these data will help track how products with big social and environmental impacts propagate through supply chains across the country. More information available in English and in Portuguese.
Addressing indirect sourcing in commodity supply chains Commodity supply chains are often described as hour-glass shaped, with hundreds of thousands of farmers selling to a small number of trading companies, who then sell to downstream companies (e.g. manufacturers, retailers). How trading companies actually source commodities on-the-ground, is however, rarely studied. Here, classify the sourcing strategies of the leading trading companies across four contexts with high rates of commodity-driven deforestation: South American soy, Côte d'Ivoire cocoa, Indonesian palm oil, and Brazilian live cattle exports. We show that large chunks of the global trade in these commodities are 'indirectly' sourced through local intermediaries. We then document how commodity traders have been slow to engage with their indirect suppliers, thus undermining the effectiveness of corporate sustainable sourcing initiatives. Finally, we propose ways forward to achieve zero deforestation commodity trading accounting for the reality that large parts of the supply chain are and will continue to be indirectly sourced via local intermediaries. A preprint of this work is available here.
Impacts of zero deforestation commitments in the Brazilian soy sector More than 150 countries and multinational companies have made public zero deforestation commitments (ZDCs) – commitments to eliminate deforestation from commodity production. These commitments offer much promise, but are undermined by a lack of transparency about their coverage and impacts. As part of the Trase initiative, we developed an approach to monitor progress of ZDCs in the Brazilian soy sector, a leading driver of tropical deforestation. Though ZDC coverage is increasing, it under-represents the Cerrado where most soy-associated deforestation takes place. Actors with ZDCs have historically sourced from areas of active soy deforestation and we observe no change in their exposure to soy-associated deforestation since making these commitments. We highlight several systemic weaknesses which must be addressed to allow actors to acheive goal of ending commodity-associated deforestation. This work is published in Environmental Research Letters here.
Supply chain transparency for a sustainable cocoa sector Analyses of the who, what, and where of the global trade in cocoa - which companies handle the trade in cocoa products, what products they handle, and which markets (producing and import markets) they operate in. This work is done together with Claudia Parra from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Zooming in on West Africa, the source of 60% of the world's cocoa, our team at UCLouvain are mapping the origin of cocoa exports within Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. This work contributes to the SUSTAIN-COCOA project on 'Sustainable sourcing policies for biodiversity protection, climate mitigation, and improved livelihoods in the cocoa sector', hosted by ETH-Zurich. Initial insights on Ghana's and Côte d'Ivoire's cocoa exports can be read here.
Land sparing in the Brazilian Legal Amazon Forest conservation and agricultural development are often portrayed as being at loggerheads, as conservation constrains the expansion of farmland. Together with researchers at the MCC Institute, we evaluated this forest-agriculture trade-off, by evaluating the impact of the Brazilian government's flagship anti-deforestation policy, the Priority List (Municípios Prioritários), on agriculture. Using novel econometric techniques, we found that the Priority List policy simultaneously reduced deforestation and boosted productivity and production in the cattle sector. In Our results show how efforts to constrain agricultural expansion through improved forest conservation policies can induce intensification. This work is published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics.
Sustainable cattle ranching in the Brazilian Amazon Cattle ranching is the dominant land use on deforested land in the Brazilian Amazon. I have worked with partners in the International Institute for Sustainability, Rio de Janeiro, and a number of Brazilian NGOs to catalogue the initiatives in the Brazilian Amazon which are promoting sustainable, higher-yielding cattle ranching. We identified six initiatives which have used a range of technologies (rotational grazing, legume-grass mixes, agroforestry) to improve the productivity of beef and dairy production by 30–490% on >500,000 ha of pasture, while supporting compliance with the Brazilian Forest Code. Our results draw attention to the range of technologies available to increase cattle ranching productivity, and the business case for their adoption. This research is published in the journal Sustainability, here.
Food waste: a sustainable animal feed? Food waste has been used as a pig feed for 10,000 years - but this practice is currently illegal in the European Union (EU) because of historical disease control concerns. Taking inspiration from the well regulated systems of food waste recycling operating in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, I have analysed the environmental and economic impacts of re-legalising the use of food waste as animal feed in Europe. I have also surveyed farmers at the UK's largest pig and poultry trade fair where I found that three-quarters of farmers were supportive of the relegalisation of swill. This research has been published in the journals Food Policy, theJournal of Cleaner Production, and PLOS ONE, and was featured in a comment piece in Science (see "Publications" for more details). This work has been done in collaboration with partners in the University of Cambridge's Department of Engineering, and Seoul National University.