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Proceedings (peer-reviewed)

Title of proceedings 10th International Conference on Life Cycle Assessment of Food 2016 - Book of abstracts


Complying with the carrying capacity of the local and global ecosystem is a prerequisite to ensure sustainable development. In terms of environmental performance assessment at farm level, this implies separate implementation of local and global farm environmental performance indicators (Repar et al., 2016). In order to improve the environmental sustainability of farming, a better understanding of the link between these two dimensions of farm environmental performance is necessary. The aim of our work is to investigate the possible synergies and trade-offs between the local and global environmental performance of dairying in the Swiss alpine region. Our analysis relies on a sample of 56 dairy farms in the Swiss alpine region for which detailed and comprehensive cradle-to-farm gate LCAs have been estimated using the SALCA (Swiss Agricultural Life Cycle Assessment) approach and the quantified environmental impacts decomposed into their on- and off-farm parts. We define global environmental performance as the on- and off-farm environmental impacts generated in the cradle-to-farm gate link per MJ digestible energy for humans. We assess local environmental performance using the indicator on-farm environmental impact generation per unit usable agricultural area. The results of the Spearman’s rank correlation analysis between the global and local environmental performance indicators show a quite complex picture (see Table 1). Depending on the environmental impact category considered, both synergies and trade-offs can be observed, nevertheless trade-offs clearly predominate. Our findings imply that the improvement of the environmental sustainability of dairy farming is a highly complex endeavour, for which no one size fits all solutions may exist. To avoid that any improvement in one dimension of environmental performance happens at the expense of the other, both local and global dimensions have to be accounted for. Our results furthermore imply that existing agri-environmental policy measures that exclusively focus on the local dimension of environmental performance may lead to a deterioration of global environmental performance.