Overline: Green-Win-Project
Headline: How ecological Value Chains Can Help Societies Tackle the Coronavirus Crisis

The coronavirus pandemic has cast a spotlight on the vulnerability of global value chains. Sustainable value chains at the regional level could bring more stability to the post-pandemic world. A team of researchers at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) has developed a typology of climate win-win strategies that can be used to identify sustainable regional value chains.


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If a sustainably managed product is also processed with energy from a renewable energy source, an ecological value chain is created. Shutterstock/ ingehogenbijl

The team of researchers at the IASS is working to identify the conditions under which green growth can thrive. As part of the EU-funded Green-Win research project, the team focussed on three fields of action:

  • coastal management
  • rural energy poverty
  • and urban transformations towards sustainability.

In each of these sectors, the team identified concrete business models that would generate economic and environmental benefits in selected industrialized and newly industrialized countries.

Take, for example, a company that distributes organic coffee roasted using energy generated with fossil fuels. One possible ecological innovation  is to use biogas to fuel the roasting process. This has a positive effect on the environment as well as benefiting the manufacturers of biogas equipment, the farmers who produce the biogas, and the coffee roasters. And finally, the coffee consumed by customers is friendlier to the environmental as a result.

Gaining a better understanding of the prerequisites of win-win strategies and green business models is a key focus of this project. The team at the IASS developed the concept of a value-consumption chain to achieve this. "With win-win strategies, we can achieve economic gains by enhancing value-consumption chains in a way that also results in a win for the environment," explains Armin Haas.

The concept of value-consumption chains can be applied to identify which actors need to be brought on board to implement a specific win-win strategy and at which point the ecological benefit is generated. “Ecological wins do not by necessity have to be generated by the actor developing the win-win strategy. In fact, they can occur at completely different points along the value-consumption chain,” says lead author Frank Meißner. “By switching to biogas, the coffee roaster in Bali can reduce the methane emissions of farmers who produce the biogas,” outlines Meißner.

“Transformations towards sustainability can only succeed with the initiative and active involvement of those affected. Efforts to bring about change are more likely to succeed when ecological improvements lead to higher incomes at the local level,” says Armin Haas, who led the IASS team from the Green-Win project.

Typology of the most successful strategies

“As part of our research under the Green-Win project, we had to grapple with a plethora of win-win strategies. In order to better understand the different incentives, obstacles and possible courses of action available to companies, their suppliers and customers – as well as the policy options available to political actors – we developed a typology of innovative win-win strategies,” says Meißner.

“We found that there was considerable potential for regional ecological value chains in all sectors. These value chains could play an important role in the economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic,” says IASS project leader Armin Haas.

In contrast to the established literature, the researchers were able to identify win-win strategies relevant to both climate change mitigation and adaptation: “Coastal management harbours diverse opportunities for regional ecological value chains. Implementing smart measures on location can protect both the environment and people. And if measures also create valuable building land, state finances will benefit, enabling governments to push ahead with previously unthinkable improvements. This can work amazingly well in both developing and industrialized countries,” says IASS scientist Armin Haas.

With the support of an international consortium of researchers and business people, a team of IASS researchers has studied ecological value chains as part of the EU-funded Green-Win research project.


Meissner, F., Haas, A., Hinkel, J., Bisaro, A. (2020): A typology for analysing mitigation and adaptation win-win strategies, Climatic Change. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-020-02681-x