Offrir et Consommer une Alimentation Durable


Résumé (en anglais)

This project is based on the idea that the consumer (citizen) could play an important role in the implementation of a virtuous circle of sustainable food supply. This hypothesis gambles that a sustainable diet is possible, based on profound changes in the behaviour and preferences of consumers, inducing adequate changes on the supply side. It would be based of moving from the current dietary model: preferences built on pleasure (taste, satiation), short term and selfish concerns (cheap, easy to use, ignoring externalities and fairness) to a sustainable model, based on the current model – called the ‘economic efficiency dimension’ – plus ‘environmental requirements’ and a ‘social dimension’, covering health (nutritional adequacy), wellbeing and equity. 

The hypothesis of a consumer placed at the centre of a virtuous circle of a sustainable food supply rests on a double vision, no doubt optimistic, of both demand and supply. For the demand side (WP2), the question is the consumer value of sustainability and the conditions for extending it. To what extent are the consumers valuing the collective and long-term aspects of a sustainable food supply, when they conflict with price and taste. This « opening up » of value determine the pressure applied to the suppliers to offer sustainable food, without pressure from the authorities. On the supply side (WP3) the optimistic vision to test is that of the existence of a strategic potential (notably based on products differentiation) and of a potential for sufficient innovations (lower costs for major progress) allowing enough progress in sustainability without prejudicing competitiveness. 

It is in this final market, where the supply meets the demand, that the degree of success of a virtuous circle borne by the consumers (citizens) will become apparent. Will it be enough? A question for this project is the extent to which it is reasonable to expect this approach to work. The main target of the project is to propose a package of public policies aimed at supporting and enlarging this approach. The public policy instruments available are well known: labelling regulation, price policies, and product and process quality policies (notably policies for standards). Each of these instruments affects both the supply and the demand. Their proper evaluation assumes that the effects of these policies on the supply and the demand are studied separately, and then that these effects are studied together, structurally and dynamically. This is the ambitious intention of this research project. The structuring of the project reflects this ambition; WP 2 concerns the demand, WP3 concerns the supply, and WP4 concerns the public policies. WP1 is preliminary; it is intended to elaborate and provide our research consortium with the indicators, which they lack, concerning the environmental dimension of sustainable development. 

We distinguish two complementary approaches to a sustainable food supply: a transversal approach, concerned with the diet, and a product or family approach, concerned with the food. The transversal approach is concerned with the substitutions within diets. This is where the decisions about the weighting of food categories come in, notably the balance between plant and animal products which is already the subject of recommendations for a more sustainable diet, for the nutritional quality of diets, but also concerns the pleasure aspects and household budgets. A second level is by family of products, where innovations come into play on the supply side, brought about by costs on the one hand and by consumers value on the other. We have chosen to study this second dimension by focusing on the dairy industry. For the two approaches, the challenges are numerous on both the supply and demand side. The authorities need to find the optimal balance between the dynamic of transverse substitutions and the dynamic of innovations for each product. 

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Dates : 29/02/2012 – 28/02/2016


Contact: Vincent Requillart