Cooperation, in all its forms, represents a valuable paradigm to define new horizons of development and build new organisational models of value creation according to a sustainable approach that concerns the entire supply chain (Contò et al. 2019).
In this framework, this special issue hosts four articles through which the Journal aims to offer several insights into the importance of promoting the development of an agri-food supply chain that is integrated and sustainable, and takes into consideration the needs of all the actors involved, whether producers or consumers.
Precisely, the authors investigate how to add value to the supply chain through the analysis of the consumption models (Canavari et al. 2019), certification schemes (Prosperi et al. 2019), evaluation methods for use in incentive schemes (De Menna et al. 2019), and forms of territorial cooperation (Scaramuzzi et al. 2019).
The role of consumers as co-responsible for environmental sustainability in agri-food production is addressed by Canavari et al. (2019) in the article entitled, “Consumer stated preferences for dairy products with carbon footprint labels in Italy”. The paper discusses the current literature on consumers’ willingness to pay for carbon footprint labels and presents two studies on consumer preferences with respect to greenhouse gas emissions certification. The findings contribute to improving the understanding of consumer behaviour. Precisely, they point out how consumer awareness of the environmental impact of food production and consumer trust in certification schemes can promote demand-driven sustainable productions.
The article by Prosperi et al. (2019) “Understanding fish labelling strategies to inform collective schemes for fisheries and aquaculture labels in Tuscany (Italy)” investigates the certification system of the fish catch in Tuscany using the convention theory. The results illustrate several forms of coordination that differ by final market and actors involved. The study offers insights for the implementation of labelling policies, highlighting how certification schemes are based on shared principles and quality conventions, the implementation of which benefits from previous collective experiences. Further, the authors point out the role of retailers in vertical coordination, showing that successful certifications are the results of well-rooted business-to-business relations.
The study by De Menna et al. (2019) entitled, “Combining life cycle assessment and costing for food waste prevention and valorisation” addresses a topic which has gained momentum over the past few years, namely food waste. Specifically, the study provides food waste practitioners with step-by-step guidance in assessing the environmental and social impacts of food waste by combining the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and the Life Cycle Costing (LCC) methodologies. The contribution of the study to the current debate is twofold: (i) it develops a consistent approach to assess—both in economic and in environmental terms—the impacts of the prevention of resource inefficiencies, novel valorisation options, and waste handling options relating to side flows in the food supply chain and (ii) the consistent approach developed in this study could be widely applied to measure value creation along the supply chains in the agri-food system.
Identifying trade-offs between environmental and economic aspects by implementing this approach could support the decision-making process of policy makers in designing supply chains that are more sustainable, both environmentally and economically.
Lastly, the article “Integrated supply-chain projects and multifunctional local development. The creation of a Perfume Valley in Tuscany” by Scaramuzzi et al. (2019) highlights that cooperation represents a source of added value and a strategic development tool also for territories.
The paper discusses how areas undergoing great pressure from the effects of globalisation, such as marginal rural areas, can implement Integrated Supply Chain Projects (Progetti Integrati di Filiera—PIF), which foster multifunctional development, focusing on innovation and on a new territorial identity. The authors emphasise the complexity of PIFs based on multi-measure tender notices, a multi-actor approach and the ensuing benefits: from enhancing the market access of agricultural producers to reducing the transaction costs related to the exchange of information and materials and from reducing the risk of opportunistic behaviour within the supply chain to increasing and multiplying the impact of single operations in support of the agricultural sector.
In order to analyse and improve the organisation and governance of the system, the authors use the Business Model Canvas (BMC) as a strategic tool that helps to define the organisation’s business models according to a customer-oriented perspective. Previously, in agricultural economics studies, this tool had been used only to analyse and describe multifunctional farming models (Torquati et al. 2015; Pölling et al. 2017). The authors have also adopted a Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach in view of involving the local community in sharing and analysing their environment, on one hand, and identifying their strategic goals and planning their actions, on the other.