Institute for Sustainable Commodities (ISCOM)

Effects of environmental measures on the sustainability indicators health and quality

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Courtesy of Courtesy of Institute for Sustainable Commodities (ISCOM)


Sustainability has three dimensions: the economic, the ecological and the social dimension. “One-dimensional” policies in a company need to be integrated so as to take into account the many aspects of human life. This may be complicated since the dimensions are mutually related. Along with all kinds of synergies, the implementation of an ecological corporate policy may have adverse effects on economic and/or social sustainability aspects and vice versa.

This report wants to contribute to the knowledge about the processes leading to the integration of ecological, economic, and social sustainability aspects. The focus is on how environmental measures will affect social and economic aspects. Central questions are: What effect do environmental measures have on social and economic aspects? And: Are these effects a matter of general tendencies or do they rest on contingencies? The degree of contingency will have its impact on the way strategic choices regarding environmental measures are made at all levels of the production chain.

Due to the complexity and the breadth of the subject, this report will restrict itself to the effects that environmental measures may have on product quality, being an indicator for economic sustainability and on health, being an indicator for social sustainability. A further restriction is that the report focuses on the beginning of commodity chains, i.e. that part of the chain where the primary production and the primary processing take place.

Scientific literature has been the principal source of information. The World Wide Web has been frequently visited to look for additional information. Besides, four people working in the coffee branch were interviewed: two persons who were working for a coffee roaster, and two others who were working for a coffee trade organization. Finally, a questionnaire has been sent to 30 coffee trading organizations all over the world. This source of information, however, did not contribute significantly to this report due to the poor response.

This chapter sketches the social-economic background of the integration of sustainability policies. The three sustainability dimensions will be analysed in more detail, paying attention to the importance of these three dimensions with respect to the internalisation of external effects. Chapter 2’s central question is whether the impacts of sustainability measures follow a certain pattern. In other words, can the contingency be reduced? Information from the coffee and cocoa chain (Annexes 1 and 4) form the basis for this analysis. Finally, chapter 3 will consider some of the strategic choices that have to be made in a commodity chain to realise sustainable modes of production.

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