Supply chain


Global systems of food production, trade and consumption are shaped – and threatened – by complex interlinked factors, including climate change, ecosystem service provision and degradation, industry practice, rapid consumer lifestyle change and geo-political volatility. Whilst the concept of resilience has been embraced by supply chain actors – particularly in logistics and sustainable supply chain management – it has rarely been applied at a ‘systems level’, considering the broader complexity of the structural and governance-based contexts of global supply chains, and environmental and socio-economic resilience and risk perspectives. This research theme will take such a ‘systems’ approach, investigating how these structures, institutions and relationships support or undermine sustainable and resilient supply chains, and how this information can be used to support decision making for enhanced UK food security.

Summary of objectives 

The objectives of this theme are to:

  • Quantitatively and qualitatively map the flows of information and resources in the global value chain and their relationship to the resilience and sustainability of the UK food system.
  • Identify the modes of governance, regulation (public and private) and decision making, that shape the UK’s food system.
  • Develop information and decision support tools for manufacturers and retailers that facilitate resilience and sustainable patterns of production, trade and consumption.

Objectives in Detail

Mapping the UK’s value chain will employ a mixed-methods approach, combining industry statistics, trade information, and supply chain models to gain an understanding of the structural relationships between UK consumption activities and the global food production and trade system. Indicators of social and environmental impact and risk will be combined with this information to provide insight into key commodity risks and sustainable development pressures facing UK supply chains.

This structural information will be analysed in conjunction with an understanding of the influence of the regulatory and supply chain governance environment on these supply chains. A Global-Value-Chain/Global-Economic-Governance framework will be adopted to conduct this analysis, which will help identify the regulatory and behavioural determinants of supply chain composition and potential vulnerability to supply chain disruption and other threats to UK food security. Understanding the role of private actors and standards in the global value chain will be a particular priority.

Using the outcomes of this analysis, and in conjunction with industry and policy-partners, we will develop a decision-support tool which will support manufacturers and retailers with their own value chain analyses and allow assessment of key interventions that might be made to improve supply chain resilience.

Planned Outcomes 

This theme provides information, models and resources for researchers, policy and business decision-makers that supply evidence of environmental-, social-, economic- and supply-chain driven risks associated with food commodities of economic importance to the UK, including those produced globally in systems vulnerable to external shocks. We will work with a range of industry partners to develop and test a decision support toolkit, co-designed with stakeholders, which will inform impact and risk management for businesses and national policy.


What are private standards?

These are standards that are set (created) by commercial or non-commercial private entities, including firms, industry organisations, nongovernmental organisations (independent certification e.g. fair trade etc.). In turn, the extent to which private standards are voluntary/mandatory depends on the form and level of power wielded by the entities adopting those standards. The criteria for standards in the food sector can encompass a combination of economic/quality, safety, social and environmental criteria. These standards can be at individual firm level e.g. Tesco Natures Choice, national level e.g. Freedom Food or at international level e.g. Marine Stewardship Scheme.

What is Global Value Chain Analysis?