Balancing markets, traditions and innovations in initiatives where private sector, civil society and policy meet


by Karlheinz Knickel, IfLS Frankfurt/M.


Two years into the PEGASUS project, a set of 34 sectoral, multi-sectoral and territorial case studies in 10 Member States, focusing on the provision of a range of environmental and social benefits by agriculture and forestry has been completed. These 34 case studies provide a broad appraisal of the connections between farming and forestry systems and the provision of environmental and social benefits under different biophysical, socio-economic and cultural conditions. In 12 of these 34 case studies the analysis has been deepened to better capture the complexity of each single case and to identify and explore, together with practitioner partners and stakeholders, the factors that enable, or limit, an enhancement of the environmental and social impacts of farming and forestry. The approach taken in the case studies has been holistic and exploratory.

The 12 in-depth case studies illustrate the diversity of configurations and approaches taken by the initiatives reviewed in enhancing the provision of environmental and social outcomes in different contexts – and show that there is nothing simple or straightforward! In all cases, we found that there is an intricate, context and location-specific – and dynamic – interplay between different drivers, interests, motivations and mechanisms for delivering environmental and social benefits in different agricultural and forest settings. In some of our case studies, these interactions are mutually reinforcing and beneficial, in others they diverge and may send conflicting signals to practitioners. The PEGASUS case study teams framed their research around social-ecological systems which proved a useful analytical approach to capture this complexity.


In most case studies, if not all, civil society organisations and/or the private sector jointly agree on and work towards a common goal. Reconciling diverging interests and goals, markets, traditions and innovations play a role – sometimes reinforcing each other, and in other instances leading to tensions that require compromise. In all 12 case studies we examined, we could also identify multiple policy frameworks in action, sometimes enabling, and sometimes constraining actions or providing the wrong signals. For example, in the private Liivimaa Lihaveis initiative in Estonia - a label certifying beef fed on biodiversity-rich semi-natural grasslands - an important finding has been that policy support is important but not sufficient in itself to enable a sustained provision of environmental and/or social outcomes and that adding value to products and private sector engagement are equally important. In that case, public and private mechanisms have successfully reinforced each other in enabling collective action and the provision of environmental and social goods and services. In another case, focusing on the tomato supply chain in Emilia Romagna, Italy, the 40-year-long technical and innovation partnership between local stakeholders works on the premise that quality is the key determinant of the supply chain competitiveness. Over the years this has increasingly led to an emphasis on improving the environmental sustainability of tomato production. Governance arrangements and policies, working alongside private schemes are an integral part of the region’s competitiveness strategy.

This is only a very brief overview of the rich case study material PEGASUS has gathered. More information can be found in our synthesis of the case study findings (Deliverable 4.4). An in depth comparative analysis of these findings is now underway. It will deepen our understanding of the interplay of varied factors in delivering environmental and social alongside economic outcomes from agriculture and forestry. In the comparative analysis, we will try to identify where and when problems and conflicts arise when commercial, voluntary and public actors come together. We want to better understand how blockages can be resolved, in particular in regions where under-provision or under-appreciation of environmental and social benefits is observed or where future provision is at risk.  Based on this deeper understanding, especially of factors that are locally or context-dependent, we will be able to elaborate meaningful policy and practical tools and recommendations for decision makers and practitioners at European, national and regional levels.

A first more comprehensive discussion paper on the analysis of these real-life cases with lots of illustrations and references to all case studies is available here.