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Girish Shambu, PhD, Professor of Management, Canisius College, Buffalo, NY

Creating a Teaching Resource on Sustainable, Plant-Based Food Supply Chains

The new “Inspirational Paradigm for Jesuit Business Education” announces that a key responsibility of business schools is “to support students and faculty as they develop concrete strategies for becoming part of the solution” to the many challenging social and environmental issues facing the world today. This paper describes a project that created a teaching resource to provide such support to both faculty and students, thus guiding them through the study of plant-based food supply chains. This resource, which comprises eight modules of videos and handouts, is also expected to be shared among the 27 Jesuit colleges and universities in the fall. Both Pope Francis (in Laudato Si’) and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change agree that current methods of production and patterns of consumption cause catastrophic environmental harm. The UN body, in a 2019 report, explicitly called for a change in human diet, urging societies worldwide to consume less meat. In its place, the report singled out plant-based foods as a significant opportunity to help mitigate the effects of climate change. Further, consumers are flocking to plant-based food such as alternative meat not just because it represents an environmentally responsible choice; they are also drawn to its promises of healthfulness and ethical eating practice. It is an industry and a supply chain that can serve as an exemplar of sustainability for business students. Our project created a teaching resource on plant-based food supply chains, resulting in videos and teaching notes in the form of eight modules. The modules are designed to be self-standing and “detachable,” lending themselves for use in either undergraduate or MBA courses in a flexible manner depending on the needs of the course. The courses most likely to utilize these modules are operations management, supply chain management, business & society, and business strategy. The eight modules that comprise this teaching resource are devoted to: sustainability and Laudato Si’; COVID-19 and food supply chain disruptions; environmental and social impacts of meat and dairy supply chains; health and safety concerns in food supply chains; ethical concerns in food supply chains; the landscape of the plant-based food industry and market; information technology in plant-based food supply chains; current and future challenges for plant-based food supply chains. The presentation will describe the project and its raison d’etre, and give an overview of this teaching resource on sustainable, plant-based food supply chains. The project was funded by an Inspirational Paradigm grant.