The Sociotechnical Alternatives research axis aims to study the material basis of the economy (in physical rather than in monetary units), to analyze its environmental impacts, and also to propose participatory methods allowing stakeholders to imagine their own alternatives in terms of modes of production and consumption. It is composed of two sub-axes: analyses of particular supply-chains (in the continuity of our previous works), and systemic analyses of sociotechnical alternatives for the economy as a whole, taking interactions between sectors into account.
In both cases, our aim is to produce multi-scale analyses (e.g.: local scale < French region < France < Europe < World) that will help to inform collective decision-making for a transition towards sustainable modes of production and consumption.
Supply chains Analyses
Material flows (production, transformation, exchanges, consumption, waste) are the basic building blocks of our supply chain studies. We designed methods and tools to model a supply chain (in terms of products, sectors and possible flows between them) and reconcile incomplete and/or inconsistent data. The flows allow :
To apprehend the upstream/downstream vulnerabilities of the supply chains (e.g. dependence on imports),
To question the use of natural resources and the possible problems of competition for use (e.g.: can the development of biofuels lead to competition between food and energy production?),
And finally to estimate environmental footprints (e.g. carbon, energy, water, chemical pollution, land use, etc.).
So far, our research has mainly focused on the agriculture and forest-wood chains.
Results and softwares are available on the following website (only in French for the time being): www.flux-biomasse.fr.
STEEP works closely with the TerriFlux company on this theme.
Systemic analyses of sociotechnical alternatives
The objective of this research program is to help shed light on the debates around possible alternatives: what would a one-planet economy look like and what standards of living would it imply? What compromises will have to be made between socio-economic and environmental criteria, between resilience, equity and sustainability of territories?
Our work is structured around four main objectives:
To propose a formalism to describe sociotechnical alternatives. In particular, we are working on extensions of physical supply/use tables, able to provide information on the interactions between materials and energy. We are also interested in coupling quantitative (technical dimension) and qualitative (social dimension) representations.
To propose a methodology (and eventually a software) allowing groups of actors to imagine their own alternatives,
To develop a methodology and associated tools to evaluate an alternative:
What needs does it cover?
What are the local, remote or global pressures and impacts generated? How do they compare to local and global limits?
What would be the vulnerabilities of the system described?
What are the socio-economic performances of the system described (e.g., in terms of allocation of the workforce, allocation of added-value…)?
To help comparing alternatives and structuring related debates.