Claims and standards have other real effects on supply-chain systems in the realms of intellectual property. As claims and standards are often protected identities, copyright, patent and other legal ownership structures are often a critical element of ensuring the value of a defined thing, is retained legally by people or organizations that created it, or, benefit from it. As with the economics of supply chains, these concepts began in simple, non-complex fashions. As markets evolve it is a reasonable expectation that they too become more complex, enabled by new technology and iterated in broader, more complex corporations of ownership. There is valuable effort in the creation of agrobiodiversity related concepts and that value should be protected to enable and sustain the principles expressed in the agrobiodiversity identity. Furthermore, stakeholders whose actions deliver new outcomes will likely benefit from ensuring that effort is not co-opted by non-compliant players. Falsely making a claim of agrobiodiversity should be functionally and legally disabled.
In very human terms, defined and verifiable claims are a key component to scale it in a trustless fashion. That is to say that the defined idea can benefit from social transmission but is not confined to it. Thorough and valid standards require practicality each stakeholder must assess against the reality of their own context. Within that, claims can be a roadmap for new entrants to understand and learn how to change their activities and validate for themselves that they are doing something different. It is important to note, a viable and operable standard is only adequately achieved by inclusion of all stakeholders in the standards building process. This is especially so with aggregators, processors and shippers as there are physical realities of these elements, and sunk capital, that can prove to be true impediments.
Defined claims also enable a triadic market structure through claims advocacy. Claims advocacy, championed by claims specialists advocating for the expansion and application of the claim, play a key role in the process of ensuring the claim is changing stakeholder activity. Claim advocacy then takes a unique position that is a natural check and balance to other market forces that might otherwise dilute, distort or distract market actions toward an outcome not defined within the claim standard or structure. Claims advocacy should also seamlessly function as the validator whose activities meet the qualitative and quantitative measures of the claim. This naturally entails providing objective guidance to where measures might not have been achieved and ameliorative next-best actions. The engagement of claims advocacy is to promote the idea, involve as many people as are willing to participate in the idea and then work on behalf of the idea to propagate it. In this way, claims advocates are the binding function between stakeholder responsibilities. Advocacy isn’t just certification, but broader in the effort to expand the ecosystem of the claim.
The 10 principles are a good directional definition of the outcomes that are expected by enacting change within global food supply chains. The next step in the evolution of the concept of agrobiodiversity as a claim, needs to focus on the development of what role each stakeholder has in the creation of those outcomes. Edges of influence are important in the concept of then identifying the qualitative and quantitative elements that will be assessed within each stakeholder’s realm of influence. This process will also identify where there are key conflicts between the directional outcomes and the existing technology and systems ability to deliver them.
Technological solutions can bridge many of these, especially where systems integrations or data sharing are a root cause issue. There may however also exist fundamental market structures that need to be solved for. For example, in many instances the aggregation of food products at the processor and shipping levels have proved to be a significant hurdle in routing newly defined products through embedded food distribution infrastructure. This challenge is often met with one of two potential solutions. First, investing in a new less-centralized or decentralized distribution network is a way around these issues. This can be a reasonable course of action if some elements of that distribution network are already in place, however building from scratch is capital intensive and time-consuming. Second, aggregating like products under a defined claim can enable the volume necessary to make use of existing infrastructure. This can make use of the efficiency of bulk transport, however, inherently requires intermingling of like products, thereby obfuscating individual source transparency.