Convênio Capes/Nuffic
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Transformações Globais no Acesso à Alimentação Saudável

Convênio Capes – Nuffic 059/15

Coordenadora brasileira: Julia S. Guivant

Coordenador holandês: Gert Spaargaren

Período do convênio: 2016-2020

Este projeto analisará novas colaborações em redes de fornecimento de alimentos que buscam aumentar o acesso à alimentação sustentável, com foco em alimentos frescos não-processados (e.g. vegetais e frutas não-enlatados, carne, peixe). A partir das perspectivas da teoria das práticas e da nova teoria institucional, a pesquisa irá identificar os alicerces de redes de alimentos sustentáveis no contexto da União Europeia e Brasil. O pressuposto é o de que as redes nestas regiões têm diferentes composições em termos de ênfases sobre as características de alimentos sustentáveis (orgânico, seguro, justo, local, baixo carbono), diferem nos principais agentes de mudança (empreendedores institucionais e seus aliados), e nos locais nos quais a inovação acontece.

A atenção à alimentação sustentável tem ganhado espaço por todo o mundo e entrado na agenda de diferentes tipos de varejistas de formas distintas. Ainda que inicialmente produtos sustentáveis tivessem espaço apenas em nichos de mercado, nas últimas décadas eles têm passado a alcançar diferentes grupos de consumidores e a compor parte das tendências dominantes no sistema alimentar.

Vale notar que em todo o mundo ainda não há uma equanimidade no acesso aos alimentos em geral, e isto é ainda mais verdadeiro para alimentos sustentáveis. Enquanto que o processo de supermercadização (supermarketization) impulsionou o consumo de alimentos sustentáveis, grandes cadeias de supermercados também são criticadas por colocar sob pressão canais tradicionais e alternativos de fornecimento de alimentos, e por marginalizar os produtores de pequena escala. Por isto é relevante o estudo dos movimentos contrários, como vendas pela internet, esquemas de assinatura de (cestas) de alimentos, e supermercados de produtos especializados (ecológicos, orgânicos, saudáveis).

Nesse contexto, os processos de transição na produção e consumo de alimentos têm sido reconhecidos como fatores-chave no futuro do desenvolvimento sustentável. Por conta disso, esta pesquisa volta-se para o estudo da prática de compra de alimentos sustentáveis em pontos de venda focando nos processos de transição sustentáveis. Em especial, o projeto atenta para o papel dos varejistas na organização do fornecimento e acessibilidade do consumo de alimentos sustentáveis.

A pesquisa é coordenada pela Profa. Dra. Julia S. Guivant (UFSC) no Brasil, e pelo prof. Dr Gert Spaargaren (Wageningen University) na Holanda. Conta com uma equipe de discentes e pesquisadores no nível da graduação, mestrado, doutorado e pós-doutorado, bem como prevê missões de trabalho e estudo entre os dois países. O IRIS e seu parceiro holandês realizam atividades conjuntas desde 2004, com destaque para o acordo Capes /Wageningen (2006-2010) que permitiu o intercâmbio entre estudantes e pesquisadores, a publicação de um livro, bem como as colaborações no âmbito do Comitê de Pesquisa 24 (Ambiente e Sociedade), da Associação Internacional de Sociologia.

Global Transformations in Access to Sustainable Food

Purpose: The project aims to analyse new collaborations in food provision networks which are set up to increase access to sustainable food, in order to gain insights in knowledge needs of key actors in sustainable food provision (SFP) networks to broaden scope for niche innovations. Focus will be non-processed fresh food (non-canned vegetables and fruits, meat, fish). Using the lenses of both practice theory and new institutional theory, the research will identify “building blocks” of sustainable food networks in the context of the European Union and in Brazil. The underlying assumption is that networks in these regions have different make-ups in terms of emphasis on sustainable food characteristics (organic/safe/fair/local/low carbon), and differ in leading agents of change (institutional entrepreneurs and their allies), and sites where innovation takes place. At the same time, comparing networks across these regions allows for finding best practices and learning opportunities (Ingram et al, 2010).

All over the world, attention for sustainable food is growing, whether it is defined as organic, healthy, local, safe, fair, low-carbon, or in specific combination of these characteristics. For a long time, sustainable food only resonated in niche-markets. But since about two decades, it has become in reach of different groups of consumers, even though shifts towards mainstream did not happen everywhere in the same way or same pace. More and more it is realized that inequalities in food-power relations do not just affect the functioning of food production systems, but also link up to the provision side of food supply chains. Access to food in general is still not evenly distributed around the globe and within societies, and this is even more true for sustainable food. While the process of supermarketization kindled the uptake of sustainable food, large supermarket chains are also criticized for putting ‘traditional’ and ‘alternative’ food provision channels under pressure, and for marginalizing small scale primary producers. Counter movements emerge, such as internet sales, food subscription schemes, and mainstreaming of specialized food stores (ecological/organic/health food supermarkets) (Dauvergne & Lister, 2012). At the same time, a “discount” trend is (re-) occurring in large scale food provision, which could suggest a growing differentiation based on income, in food provision within societies.

Sustainable food as a trending topic has been taken up by different kinds of food retailers in distinctive ways, including the forging of (new) coalitions where competitors become allies, and societal organizations and sustainability consultants become partners in defining new sustainable provisions. Retailers and their partners are however challenged by regional, national and socio-economic differences in consumers’ food shopping practices on the one hand, and in existing (sustainable) food supply relations on the other. 1 In Latin America, for example, and in the case of Brazil, large multinational supermarkets compete with rapidly professionalizing 1 It should be noted that the following illustrations just show a rough differentiation, as there are large within-region differences. 2 (local/regional) retailers who are linked to long- and well-established fresh markets and food centres. In Europe, Australia, and North America, large supermarket chains are generally the most powerful (but also criticized) players, who increasingly turn to labelling schemes (Fair Trade, Organic, retailer-owned schemes) to prove their sustainability profile. While in these regions new practices are competing with existing supermarket practices, Asian countries show other trends. In Asia, wet markets and food courts are the common provision sites, and food shopping in supermarkets is emerging as new (yet not very dominant) practice. Another distinctive characteristic is that especially food safety is high on the sustainability agenda. On the African continent, the picture is highly fragmented, though a common denominator is that food provision is mostly informally organized, and defining a (common) sustainability agenda for food production and consumption is complicated especially beyond the micro-level or development aid programmes.

Topics of sustainable production and consumption are intensively studied within the Global Research Forum on Sustainable Production and Consumption (GRF-SPaC) and in growing numbers of academic research groups around the world. As part of the global research- and policy-agenda, transitions in food production and consumption have become recognized as being among the key factors determining the future of sustainable development.

Social scientists of many disciplinary backgrounds analyze transitions at different levels of scale, from the micro or ‘niche-level’ up to the meso or ‘regime-level’ on to the macro or ‘landscape level’ (Geels & Schot, 2010). When applied to food systems around the world, the micro-macro linkages involved in transitions toward sustainable food consumption and production turn out to be particularly complex. This complexity originates from the fact that a huge diversity of well-established local food systems with long term historical and cultural roots is increasingly affected by an ever more consequential process of the globalization of food production and consumption. In food transitions, ‘the local meets the global’ and ‘the global connects to the local’ in ways that are not sufficiently researched so far (Oosterveer, Guivant & Spaargaren, 2007).

In our global research network, we will combine different disciplinary and methodological perspectives and consult and include stakeholders in different phases of the research. We will develop an innovative theoretical framing of the central object of research: the practice of shopping for sustainable food in retail outlets around the world. The object is the food shopping practice, and the framework for studying sustainability transitions within these practices results from combining practice theories with transition and new institutional theories. The approach is combining elements from ecological economics, political sciences, organizational studies, political ecology, philosophy and sociology in a non-eclectic manner.

In striving for global transformations towards more, and equally distributed sustainable food, we need to better understand how different ways of organizing food provision affect accessibility to sustainable food. More specifically, it is imperative to scrutinize the roles of retailers as they are powerful in bridging the production and consumption side of (sustainable) food chainss (Dewick et al, 2007; Durieu, 2003; Fox et al, 2004; Hansen & Skytte, 1998; UNEP/Wuppertal, 2007; Guivant, Spaargaren & Rial, 2010).

This claim builds upon two key assumptions: firstly, it is recognized that the actual retail outlet (products, packages, brands, labels, technologies, infrastructures) is co-evolving and coshaping food shopping practices (Kjaernes, Harvey, & Warde, 2007). Following practice 3 theory, we frame food shopping practices as forms of shared, public-private, routinely enacted ways of doings and saying, bringing into play specific sets of rules and resources, at particular place of interaction (see box 1). Studying these food shopping practices allows for an understanding of culturally specific drivers and barriers for sustainable transformation, and for finding and designing appropriate sites to implement innovations. The second premise is that retailers can act as agents of change by mobilizing resources and allies to help the diffusion of sustainability ideas and efforts within and beyond the food supply chain. This perspective supports a more system-oriented analysis of power relations in sustainable food provision, and is in line with new institutional theories. The concept of institutional entrepreneurship is particularly of interest, as initiators of institutional change are framed as entrepreneurs who are actively pushing for institutionalization of transitions.

In this research, we distinguish between two kinds of institutional entrepreneurs: programmers and switchers. Programmers co-organize the network, look for new sustainable food solutions and propose strategies to deal with issues within the network (examples of programmers are food/agriculture scientists, NGOs, consultants, or retailers themselves). Switchers are institutional entrepreneurs who link and de-link networks, and link and de-link networks with practices. Switchers have also access to other than just food provision networks (such as education), to the different target groups (consumers) and to crucial resources. It should be noted that in some cases, programmers and switchers may be combined in one organisation.