Environmental impact assessments in a telecoupled world

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

Yococoa (1)

Companies trading agricultural commodities use environmental assessments to monitor their environmental performance and guide sustainability initiatives that help reducing negative impacts in their value chains. Current methods simplify the assessment of these impacts by leaving behind the effect that agricultural commodity production has beyond the farm as a consequence of land use interactions with competing economic activities. The landscape composition where a crop is cultivated, the policy regulations in place and the market dynamics are some of the factors that determine the type, scale and location of the impacts of the production of agricultural commodities.

Agricultural commodity networks are increasingly globalized but the understanding of these factors playing at local and global scales, their drivers and effects is at its infancy.  Using cocoa (one of the top five deforestation-risk commodities in the world) as illustrative case study, my research aims to deepen the understanding of the drivers and the impacts caused by globalized commodity networks.

My Phd will:

  • Make a comparative analysis of currently used environmental impact assessment tools in the private sector to evaluate their completeness and limitations in capturing impacts of agriculture commodity production beyond the farm level.
  • Analyze the impacts of cocoa production in Ghana beyond the farm while contrasting them with the impacts captured by traditional assessment methods (life cycle assessment). We deploy spatial analysis techniques and land use modelling to evaluate the impact of cocoa production under three potential future scenarios.
  • Analyze the market configuration of the global cocoa value chain and the sourcing strategies of cocoa trading corporations to understand the efficacy of voluntary corporate sustainability initiatives in the sector. We analyze the following acknowledged sustainability issues linked to cocoa production: deforestation, forest degradation, climate change, poverty and child labor.

Main photo: Claudia interviewing cocoa farmers during fieldwork in Ivory Coast (credits: Claudia Parra Paitan)


Claudia Parra Paitan

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Institute for Environmental Studies
De Boelelaan 1087, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands

“My research aims to develop more comprehensive assessments of the telecoupled indirect, distant and multi-scale land use impacts of global agricultural commodity chains.”

Claudia Parra Paitan

Publications …

Parra Paitan, C. & P.H. Verburg (2019). Methods to Assess the Impacts and Indirect Land Use Change Caused by Telecoupled Agricultural Supply Chains: A Review. Sustainability 11:1162. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11041162

Parra Paitan, C. & H. Verburg (2022). Accounting for land use changes beyond the farm-level in sustainability assessments: The impact of cocoa production. Science of the Total Environment 825: 154032. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.154032

… and more

Media coverage

European Research Executive Agency: European Year of Youth: three young MSCA researchers helping to build a brighter future for generations to come. News article. 28.01.2022. To kick-start the ‘European Year of Youth’, three young inspiring MSCA researchers were interviewed to discuss their projects and their hopes to build a brighter future through their work. Among them is Claudia Parra Paitan.