Sustainable Consumption

The production of agricultural commodities in India is a multi-dimensional sustainability challenge in India with local (smallholder livelihoods, freshwater depletion, soil degradation, biodiversity loss) as well as distant (climate change) impacts. Better mapping, understanding and responding to such impacts is crucial because of the country’s long history of commodity production and its ever-increasing consumption footprint. There is much at stake in terms of the natural and human capital under threat and the continued provision of regulating and provisioning ecosystem services.

It is now well-recognised that a transformation to more sustainable modes of production and consumption requires a systemic shift in which several actors have to play a critical role. Further, opportunities for interdisciplinary research to tackle such a sustainability challenge exist across the spectrum: from the impact assessment of production using empirical and modelling approaches to a focus on the behavioural drivers of increased commodity consumption.


The Sustainable Agro-ecosystems Programme, hosted at the Centre for Environment and Development (CED) at ATREE aims to tackle the sustainability challenge. It has chalked out a complementary focus on three spatial scales: national-, state- and regional-level knowledge integration, informed by local case studies.

The objectives of the programme include:

  • Documenting guidelines and approaches towards sustainable commodity production and consumption practices and the potential interventions that can be advanced through a deep engagement with actors in select commodity supply chains committed to implementing our approach.
  • Quantitatively assessing the environmental footprints of conventional and alternative (for example, through regenerative methods) modes of commodity production using a case study approach.
  • Mapping existing policies, laws, narratives and stakeholders (on national and state-levels) that drive agricultural commodity production and consumption in India, analysing their current status and objectives and the pathways through which they can be harnessed and leveraged to pursue alternative (positive) outcomes.
  • Analysing the socio-environmental factors that drive domestic consumption and trade of agricultural commodities, including the role of particular social groups, lifestyles and narratives.

Research Questions

The broad questions guiding this programme would be:

  • What are the socio-ecological trade-offs that need to be better understood and tackled in commodity landscapes?
  • Can better production practices combined with transparent supply chains mitigate some environmental impacts from commodity production and lead to positive outcomes for lives and livelihoods?
  • As the production of some commodities is scaled up in India, what are some systems that can be established that account for future impacts from production and consumption perspectives?


The goals of the programme can be distinguished in terms of direct (measurable) and indirect (wider) goals. In case of collaborations, ATREE’s role will remain as that of a key knowledge partner.

The direct goals include:

  • Bringing out solution-based knowledge products that synthesise existing knowledge, impact assessments and proposed interventions on the human and environmental impacts of commodity production and consumption in India.
  • Working with producer groups towards piloting regenerative practices for select commodities and supporting these pilots to scale.
  • Identifying key networks and engaging with change agents in India through stakeholder mapping and establishing collaborations among individual producers, producer groups, governments, NGOs and the private sector.

The wider goals would be:

  • Enabling actors to actively plan the mitigation of human and environmental impacts during production and to include a higher proportion of their production under sustainable and traceable practices.
  • Generating evidence for advancing regulations and commitments to pre-emptively cover a growing number of agricultural commodities and a higher percentage of production within those commodities.
  • Establishing accountability and traceability as central pillars of supply chain sustainability efforts, both from the perspective of producer and consumer.
  • Re-imagining and re-designing narratives around commodity-production landscapes as sites that can provide win-wins for climate action, environmental sustainability and human well-being.