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Sustainable Production and Consumption

This cluster focuses on the ultimate goals of living within environmental limits and the attainment of social justice, through the delivery of responsible business and ethical consumption practices.

Focus of our research

Our research is aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12: ‘Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns’. The cluster frames its research around a holistic approach to sustainability, whereby true sustainability requires the alignment of social, economic and environmental goals. Our research takes a ‘whole supply chain’ approach, examining activities, attitudes and behaviours at different points in the life cycle of products.

Our projects cover areas such as waste reduction, resource and energy efficiency, sustainable community and consumer behaviours, ethical certifications and supply chain governance. Our work is global in nature, reaching out in particular to South Africa, Indonesia and China. The interdisciplinary cluster team generates a dynamic environment for cutting-edge research.

Core cluster themes

  • Sustainable supply chains
  • Ethical and changing consumption
  • Leveraging the circular economy
  • We are involved in a number of research projects evaluating sustainability within agri-supply chains. As a result of our work, sustainability principles have achieved greater reach within the cut-flower industry, resulting in increased market access for Fairtrade flowers and locally produced flowers with low carbon footprints. The global cut-flower industry project was awarded highly commended status at the national Green Gown Awards in 2019 as a leading example of Research with Impact. Our work in South Africa has led to the development of an online training course which promotes sustainable practices in the agricultural sector. Our teams are currently leading projects investigating sustainability risks in agri-supply chains, including the Indonesian coffee sector and the South African fruit, wine and flower sectors. These projects are demonstrating how risk factors, such as the many facets of climate change, are already disrupting production and pose a threat to the medium-term security of UK imports. Understanding the drivers of food waste is a key theme within our work, which is investigated via a ‘field to bin’ approach. This work connects our agri-supply chain research with our circular economy projects.

    The circular economy concept provides openings for sustainability to be practised; for instance, using minimum resources, eliminating waste and re-using/recycling materials within the supply chain and beyond. Our research promotes a diffusion approach, which enables small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) to adopt a green supply chain strategy for each product; an integrated model to incorporate lean, agile and green practices to maximise high-value operations; and, novel business models designed to prevent business and consumer waste, including in-sourcing.

    Examples of our work explicitly focusing on the circular economy include the FaçadeRelog research project, which tackles questions raised by the façade industry on what changes are needed in their current reverse logistics to achieve an effective model for the reuse and remanufacturing of metals. On another project, we are able to investigate the impacts of bioplastic packaging on the environment and society. With ESRC funding, we are able to partner with universities in Canada, Brazil and Poland in the development of four collaborative social innovation labs. A social innovation methodology is critical to better understand how bio-based packaging innovation will impact diverse stakeholders across the supply chain, especially as it relates to food security, waste infrastructure, formal and informal waste collectors, consumers, vendors, food producers and policymakers.

    Achieving policy influence is a key dimension of our work. Members of our team were key contributors to the 3rd Indonesian Circular Economy Forum held in Jakarta in November 2019, which included Government stakeholders. In the UK, we have submitted evidence to the House of Commons Committee Stage of the Agriculture Bill, the House of Lords Select Committee on Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment, and a consultation on the future of the Grocery Code Adjudicator. We are also contributing to sustainability policy formulation in the UK horticulture industry, including submitting a review of the climate change impacts of the growing media sector for input to Defra. Our influence includes delivering agenda-setting presentations on sustainability at industry events, including the UK’s Horticultural Trades Association and the International Association of Horticultural Producers.

Key researchers

The cluster is led by Dr. David Bek, Professor Benny Tjahjono and Professor Ming Lim. The Cluster is fortunate to be able to draw upon a range of skills and expertise from within its internationally acclaimed team of researchers, PhD candidates and visiting scholars.

Professor Benny Tjahjono

Benny Tjahjono is Professor of Supply Chain Management focusing on sustainable Operations and Supply Chain Management. He has a particular interest in the contemporary applications of Simulation Modelling and many emerging research areas related to manufacturing systems, such as the “servitization” of manufacturing. His background in electronics enables him to devise an innovative method to integrate asset condition-based monitoring to support operational planning.

He has a strong track record in securing research grants and is part of a consortium of seven European universities recently awarded the Horizon2020 MSCA Innovative Training Network grant from the European Union worth nearly €4mil.

Professor Ming Lim

Ming K Lim is Professor of Supply Chain and Operations Management at Coventry University. His research is multi-disciplinary, integrating engineering, computer science, information technology and operations management. Most of his recent research work has revolved around Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, incorporated with Industry 4.0, Internet of Things, cloud computing and big data analysis.

His other research expertise includes sustainable supply chain management, green/low carbon logistics, lean and agile manufacturing, responsive and reconfigurable manufacturing/ supply chain, meta-heuristics, cost and system optimisation, system modelling and simulation.

Ming has extensive experience in supply chain management research with expertise in multi-partner projects funded by EPSRC, InnovateUK, EU FP7 and individual companies.

Dr David Bek

David is a Senior Research Fellow within the Centre for Business in Society and is co-leader of the Sustainable Production and Consumption cluster. He is currently engaged with projects focusing upon the global cut flower industry, with a specific focus upon the Cape Flora industry in South Africa.

David has worked on projects which have deployed a cultural economy approach to enable understanding of the ethical trade within commodity supply. He has evaluated ethical trade and biodiversity conservation programmes for the South African fruit industry.

He has experience of working in a range of institutional settings including local government, private consultancy, small business and university Geography Departments and Business Schools. Such diverse experiences have enabled him to develop broad ranging networks and inherent understandings of the dynamics of multi-stakeholder environments.

Visiting Professor Matthew Cook

Professor Matthew Cook is Professor of Innovation in the School of Engineering and Innovation at the Open University. Matthew’s research interests are in innovation and sustainability, with specific reference to two topic areas: 1) the development of service economies and the opportunities this provides to achieving more sustainable production and consumption via product service system innovation; 2) the development of smart cities and the opportunities this provides to improve the sustainability of systems. He has generated both theoretical and policy-relevant insights for actors from a variety of sectors, including food and farming, manufacturing, government and utility sectors.

Matthew has significant experience of qualitative research methods, including longitudinal and comparative case study analysis, ethnography, discourse and frame analysis. He has both led and contributed to a variety of research projects.

PhD opportunities

The Sustainable Production and Consumption research cluster is interested in supervising research that explores sustainable production and consumption. We welcome topics that take a ‘whole supply approach’, examining sustainable activities, attitudes and behaviours at different points in the lifecycle of products, and work around interventions and changing behaviour that go beyond existing approaches to changing consumption patterns and ethical consumption.  We are particularly keen in enhancing our research in sustainability and innovation in supply chain operations. For instance, at present we are exploring the innovative use of modern technology in improving supply chain efficiency and green practices in a complex and dynamic business environment to achieve a sustainability agenda and targets.  

  • Innovative Technology in the Circular Economy: Bridging the gap from the current state to achieve and manage the Circular Economy through innovative technology and process re-engineering (Prof Ming Lim).
  • Café Culture: Rising café societies? Business diversity, sustainability, consumer cultures and community creation (Dr Jennifer Ferreira).
  • Sustainable Businesses: Investigating the links between good ethical/environmental practices and productivity in the South African horticultural sector (Dr David Bek).

Self-funding or corporately sponsored PhD applications are always welcome. Some fees-only bursaries and full studentships might be available on a competitive basis.

For all enquiries in the first instance, please contact Dr. David Bek.

Researchers sat in the communal space in the Jaguar buidling

Sustainable Production and Consumption

Hear more from the researchers within this cluster.

Our aim is to promote sustainability in supply chains through internationally influential research into responsible business and ethical consumption practices

Dr David Bek, Cluster Co-Lead
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