Capability Approach and Inclusion: Developing a Context Sensitive Design for Biobased Value Chains

Lotte Asveld*, Zoë Houda Robaey, Sara Francke, Patricia Osseweijer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Biomass such as crops and agricultural waste is increasingly used as the primary resource for products like bioplastics and biofuels. Incorporating the needs, knowledge, skills and values of biomass producers in the design of global value chains – the steps involved in creating any finished product from design to delivery – can contribute to sustainability, reliability and fairness. However, how to involve biomass producers, especially if they are resource poor, remains a challenge. To make sure that inclusion in global biobased value chains is both fair and effective, the capabilities of relevant actors need to be taken into account, especially of those producing biomass. Access to resources determines to what extent a specific actor can participate in a global value chain. Therefore, differences in capabilities should be a central consideration when new (biobased) value chains are designed. Using the capability approach as an ethical framework to realize inclusion, we discern three complementary strategies for setting up inclusive value chains. Firstly, designing for local conversion factors second, providing adaptive design for new capabilities, and third, investing in local conversion factors. Applying these strategies can lead to context-sensitive design of biorefineries that allow for true inclusion of local stakeholders. We support these claims with reference to case-studies of sugarcane production in Jamaica, modified tobacco in South Africa and the non-edible parts of corn (stover) in the US.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Biobased value chains
  • Capability approach
  • Context sensitive design
  • Inclusion


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