Today, people are concerned not only about quality, safety and price of their food but also about social, ecological and animal welfare impacts along all stages of the supply chain. The strategic unit on Sustainable Food Commodities is an interdisciplinary team of experts who work together to foster a pragmatic and eclectic use of both theory and evidence, in order to promote the design and implementation of tailor-made and place-based strategies for economic, environmental and social sustainability of food commodities’ value chains.

The unit on Sustainable Food Commodities operates in close collaboration with Local Development Unit and the other ARCO’s units – Impact Evaluation, Third Sector and Social Innovation, Inclusive Development.

The unit on Sustainable Food Commodities applies an integrated approach in order to deliver high level research studies, as well as to provide support services to local policy-makers and food value chains actors. In particular, main activities and services include needs analysis, impact assessments and implementation of international certification schemes.


I. To understand the whole functionig of food commodities’ value chains and the main relations among local stakeholders and producers.

II. To explore the main issues that affect the overall sustainability of food productions, assessing potential areas of interventions.

III. To collectively identify and suggest potential initiative and proposals for the sustainability of food commodities, based on the proactive involvement of producers.


The Unit’s Scientific Director is Prof. Patrizia Pinelli (Department of Statistics, Computer Science, Applications – University of Florence) and its Coordinator is Dr. Leonardo Borsacchi (PhD in Commodity Science). Substantial contribution to the work of the unit is given by ARCO’s Scientific Director Prof. Mario Biggeri (Department of Economics of Florence University) and by an interdisciplinary team of academics and research fellows specialised in agri-food, economics and local development.

The unit relies on a wide network of external experts available depending on the subject and peculiarities of each specific activity. The Unit has access to a large number of high level academics and professionals, both in Italy and other countries.

Main activities and services  

  • Applied and operative research on local development, co-development, international cooperation, social innovation.
  • Diagnostic studies on territorial food value chains, local development opportunities, territorial food systems/networks.
  • Support to the elaboration, implementation and monitoring of food commodities’ value chains strategies, policies, projects and initiatives.
  • Impact Evaluation of local development strategies, policies, projects and initiatives (with ARCO Impact Evaluation Unit).
  • Implementation of international certification schemes.
  • Training on food sustainability issues (courses, workshops, etc.).

Principles underlying our work 

  • Our Action-research approach is based on interdisciplinary analysis and cross-fertilizing applications, with an integrated (top-down and bottom-up) and place-based perspective combined with a tailored regional benchmarking and comparative analysis.
  • Our research topics have to be policy-relevant and contribute to the well-being of the society.
  • We believe in our own continuous upgrading and innovation in the methodological approach, based on international cutting-edge research, as well of that of our partners.
  • Our studies and researches are independent and transparent.

Main partners

  • Non-Governmental Organizations
  • Local/National Governments, Institutions and Organizations
  • International Cooperation Institutions, Programs and Funds
  • EU Institutions
  • Italian Ministries
  • University Departments and Research Centres
  • Foundations and Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Trade Associations
  • Local development agents


Leonardo Borsacchi – Unit Coordinator