22 August 2022 News

Attard Perrine, Assessing the sustainability of Geographical Indications in the dairy and cheese sectors. The consolidation of the Qualimentaire Sustainability Assessment Tool throughout a Participatory Action Research within the PDO Maroilles cheese, Master Thesis

The actual contribution of Geographical Indications (GIs) to sustainable development (SD) is a topic that is gaining increasing attention in the context of growing societal and political pressures. While empirical knowledge is still subject, there is evidence that GIs should assess their sustainability performances to communicate the inherent sustainable attributes of their products to consumers. However, measuring the sustainability of any system is a “wicked” issue and would require soft-system approaches, which are often missing in the current literature. These limitations pointed out, the present work aimed to consolidate the Qualimentaire Sustainability Assessment Tool (QSAT) in order to design a tool that is easy to use, robust, holistic, inclusive and action-oriented, and applicable to all dairy and cheese GI in France and beyond. To this end, Participatory Action Research was conducted with the Maroilles PDO. It resulted in an innovative evaluation framework, composed of 241 indicators based on the five dimensions of Economy, Environment, Social, but also Governance and Territory, and taking into account all GI stakeholders. The discussion underlines the importance of a bottom-up participatory approach as an essential prerequisite for the applicability of the results on the field and the appropriation of the tool by local actors. Results of this study showed that the QSAT functions as a catalyst for exchanges among GI actors and collective learning about SD and thus goes far beyond a simple evaluation grid. However, a number of trade-offs were observed regarding the initial research objectives, which called for the need to not only develop an evaluation grid but a whole methodology drew on the stepwise and participatory process presented here.