Taking concrete steps to understand, measure and manage for sustainability is increasingly salient with respect to diverse societal objectives. But lack of clarity with respect to what we actually mean by sustainability, which aspects of sustainability we actively manage for, and how we should measure and prioritize among them impedes progress. This presentation will describe conceptual frameworks and methods from the field of industrial ecology that can enable more constructive dialogue around sustainability issues and support identifying pathways towards achieving our sustainability objectives. Using provocative examples from the food industry, these frameworks will be applied to describing the recent history, status quo and potential futures of industrial agri-food systems, highlighting opportunities, constraints, and trade-offs.
Nathan Pelletier is an Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia. His research focuses on understanding and managing sustainability risks and opportunities in industrial agri-food systems. He contributes to the development of methods for systems-level, multi-criteria sustainability assessment, which he uses to model the implications of contemporary and alternative technologies and management regimes with respect to sustainability targets and thresholds. Specific domains of interest include climate change, energy use, reactive nitrogen, food security, social licence, and market access. Pelletier’s Food Systems Priority Research for Integrated Sustainability Management (PRISM) Lab supports graduate students and post doctoral fellows undertaking life cycle-based evaluation of precision agriculture and other sustainable intensification technologies and strategies for application along agri-food supply chains, with a particular focus on the Canadian egg industry. The PRISM Lab is also currently leading development of the Canadian Agri-food Life Cycle Data Centre. For more information see www.prismlab.weebly.com.