Effects of environmental measures on the sustainability indicators health and quality

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An entrepreneur that just strives for maximizing profit risks loosing his social “licence to produce”. Companies do not only have a responsibility towards their shareholders, but also towards their employees and the environment. The concern for social and environmental neffects should become part of the company’s core business. In this way, corporate social responsibility consists of three value-creating dimensions:
  • Planet: the way and the extent in which the company respects the vulnerability of the ecosystem while producing goods and services;
  • People: the contribution of a company to the quality of life of its workers and their families;
  • Profit: the creation of value through the production of goods and services and through the creation of income.

“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.

In this report, the focus is on how environmental measures will affect social and economic aspects. Due to the complexity and the breadth of the subject, it 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 cultivation and primary processing take place. Central questions are: What effect do environmental measures have on social and economic aspects? Are these effects a matter of general tendencies or do they rest on contingencies? What does contingency mean for the strategic choices a farmer has to make?

It is concluded that with regard to cultivation, environmental measures do not seem to have an impact on product quality. Care for the cultivation process was found to be more important than the cultivation method itself. In the primary process, recycling of process water or a reduction of the amount of process water may have a negative impact on quality. Energy savings and EMS, on the other hand, do not seem to affect product quality. Environmental measures have a clear positive relation with physical health thanks to reduced pesticide use, increased diversity in dietary pattern, cleaner water sources, and less polluted soils and air.

The relation with mental health, however, is less clear. Environmental measures may have a positive impact on mental health, due to job enrichments and new challenges, but they may also have a negative impact due to job aggravation, accumulation of tasks and stress.

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