Huddersfield Business School has had a strong focus on the food industry in its research since well before the Sustainable Development Goal relating to food (SDG 2) was put in place. I spoke with Prof. Morven Mceachern, Professor of Sustainability at Huddersfield Business School about some of the initiatives they are undertaking, in terms of research and campus operations, focused on food. For more insights on the impact that PRME Signatories are having on SDG 2 Zero Hunger read the Special Series 30 Ways Business Schools are Supporting SDG 2.
There seem to be a lot of initiatives at Huddersfield that focus on food. Why is that?
Across the Yorkshire region, there is a strong food culture and connection with quality food production. In addition to two of the UK’s leading supermarket HQ operations being based in Yorkshire (i.e. Morrisons and Asda), numerous leading food and drink brands help to promote the region as a world leading area of food innovation, quality and value (e.g. Yorkshire Tea, Taylors Coffee, Rowntree Kit-Kat, Seabrook crisps, Holmfirth Vineyard, Vale of Mowbray Pork Pies, Wensleydale Cheese). Thus, it is no surprise that the research activities from academics at Huddersfield Business School feature partnerships and projects based around issues concerning the local, national and global food industry.
What kind of research projects are you undertaking in relation to food and what has been the impact?
Transparency: Dr John Lever’s research seeks to provide insights into how, to what extent and in what ways public attitudes towards the production and provision of halal meat in the UK is linked to a lack of transparency in the meat industry and to public concerns over wider processes of rapid social change. One impact of this work is that it has helped to inform the activities of the Halal Food Authority and is captured in the following book: Lever, J. and Fischer, J. (2016). Between Religion, Regulation and Consumption: Globalising Kosher and Halal . Manchester: Manchester University Press. (Links to SDG 3, 9 and 12)
Food Supply Chain: Professor Samir Dani is involved in various research projects around food sustainability within the framework of the Triple Bottom Line, a business model which seeks to take account of social and environmental concerns as well as profits. Food Supply Chain Management and Logistics is an exciting new text that provides an accessible and essential guide to food supply chain management, considering the food supply chain from ‘farm’ to ‘fork’. Professor Dani shows the reader how to stay ahead of the game by keeping abreast of global best practice, harnessing the very latest technology and squeezing efficiency and profit from increasingly complex supply chains. (Links to SDG 3, 9 and 12)
Circular Economy: A number of academics are also looking at food waste and the Circular Economy. For example, Dr John Lever, Dr Fiona Cheetham and Professor Morven McEachern call for a stronger circular economy to combat food waste. The authors state that “there was a general consensus that it was all but impossible to eliminate food waste completely from supermarket operations and international food supply chains. Even in a sustainable food system, there will always be a degree of surplus food to be redistributed to people in need.” They add that: “Better Central Government policy and sustainable business models are needed to facilitate movement in this direction. Public and private bodies at the regional and national level must navigate the tensions involved as a matter of urgency.” (Links to SDGs 1, 2, 6, 7, 11 and 12)
Food Poverty: Professor Morven McEachern’s funded British Academy/Leverhulme research looks at emergency food aid provision and the transitional experiences of those living with food poverty. The findings from the research were presented to the Scottish government and informed their recently proposed Right to Food Bill. (Links to SDG 1, 2 and 12)
Value Chains: Various members of the Sustainable and Resilient Communities (SRC) team received a grant from Darwin Initiative to support cooperatives in developing value chains with Ethiopian private sector partners for a number of food products including honey, spices (cardamom, chillies and long pepper) as well as forest fruits. These are currently harvested by men and women for domestic use and limited local sale. This research supports community management of 70,000ha of Afromontane rainforest used by 100,000 people and policy development affecting 15m people. Another publication around African forest honey focuses on livelihood impacts and makes recommendations for additional criteria directly related to forest maintenance. (Links to on SDGs 1, 5, 12 and 15)
Genetics: Led by Professor Adrian Wood the SRC team also supports a devolved community-led forest management approach to the in situ conservation of a globally important gene pool of wild coffee (Coffea arabica) and the protection of natural forests in an ecologically valuable area in the southwest highlands of Ethiopia. Working across 75 communities, over 100,000 hectares of forest and with 7 non-timber forest product marketing cooperatives, this work builds on an earlier six-year project funded by the EU and the UK Government Darwin Initiative and is implemented with Ethiopian project partner Ethio-Wetlands & Natural Resources Association (EWNRA).
What about on campus. How does the school approach food?
The University endeavours to consider all areas of Sustainability when making purchasing decisions. Particular attention is paid to Economic, Environmental and Social concerns. It is appreciated that every single purchase has hidden human health, environmental, and social impacts and that it is possible to reduce adverse impacts by building positive relationships with suppliers and addressing these areas. For example, its Carbon Management plan aims to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emission throughout all its premises, plant and equipment. A wide range of Fairtrade products are available from outlets across our campuses, including all restaurants, cafes and shops, plus selected vending machines. The University is working in partnership with Kirklees Council on a wider Fairtrade campaign, launched at the University in 2009, which has secured, since 2011, Fairtrade town status for Huddersfield and Fairtrade Borough status for Kirklees. The University is committed to reducing the amount of waste produced on campus and to ensure that any waste we do generate is dealt with in a sustainable and responsible manner. The University’s Environmental Policy states that we will minimise waste and continue to take positive steps to adopt the waste hierarchy to: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Responsibly Dispose.
In addition to the above Campus commitments, Huddersfield Business School’s vision is to be internationally renowned for responsible management education, a high quality learning environment, meaningful engagement with communities and organisations and impactful research. Our mission is to undertake responsible teaching, research and enterprise that enable students to fulfil their academic, professional and personal potential, and to enrich the communities and organisations with which we interact. Thus, in alignment with tackling the SDGs, Huddersfield Business School staff aim to continue with their impactful and societally relevant food-related research activities and develop further partnerships with responsible agri-food businesses.