Chung-Ang University study reveals sustainable business solutions for food cold chains


Researchers provide a set of critical success factors to mitigate recent challenges faced by food cold chains in China

Seoul, South Korea, August 23, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — The Agricultural Food Cold Chain (AFCC) is an important player in the food supply industry, providing safe and efficient food distribution with minimal waste – from farm to table. With increasing consumer demand in emerging countries, the industry is recently facing challenges on multiple fronts, ranging from environmental and economic costs to social disparities. Some of these concerns include increased energy consumption, high carbon emissions, food waste, and insufficient employee wages. This has therefore created a growing need to develop sustainable solutions for the AFCC industry. Although there are many studies on solutions for developed countries, only a few reports for developing economies exist.

To fill this gap, researchers from China and South Korea conducted a “systems” analysis to understand the processes that contribute to sustainable AFCC practices. The team led by Professor Keun-sik Park identified and assessed the Critical Success Factors (CSFs) that drive these practices in China. The study was recently published in Business Strategy and the Environmentand cited the current problems of China cold chains. Professor Park explains the rationale for their study saying: “The urbanization of China accelerates the demand for cold chains, which in turn exacerbates environmental, cost and social issues. Accordingly, we must develop systematic practices that reinforce effective green initiatives.”

The researchers carried out this study by reviewing and analyzing various aspects of sustainability, based on institutional theory (mediating factors of the rules and behavior of organizations), stakeholder theory (considering the individuals affected by the organization ) and the triple line model (the social, environmental and financial of an organization). The team began by conducting desk research, data collection and interviews, followed by expert assessment and decision analysis for 58 institutions located in Beijing, China. An “adversarial interpretation structure model” (AISM) was then used to identify 15 CSFs that contribute to the sustainability of the AFCC.

Next, they determined the hierarchical interrelation between the CSFs and the driving forces that operate. According to the analysis, the crucial drivers were managing stakeholder pressure, strategic positioning, sustainable policy, senior management commitment and sustainable investing. Consistent with previous studies, countering stakeholder pressure emerged as the most important factor.

The findings highlight that organizations must manage pressure from stakeholders including government, investors and consumers, which requires committed and methodical leadership. They must also keep in mind the rights of their employers and the feedback of consumers who guarantee the welfare issues of the community. In addition, the government should fund stakeholder-level enterprises to ensure timely and adequate funding for the implementation of a sustainable AFCC. Effective communication channels with AFCC companies are necessary to foster trust and increase operational and production transparency.

Taken together, this study provides a detailed theoretical framework for the development of sustainable business strategies for AFCC in China and is relevant in the areas of management and policy-making.

Hopeful about the results of this study, Professor Park says: “Our study suggests that there is a need to establish a clear relationship between stakeholders within companies pursuing AFCC activities. This can ensure continuous improvement in AFCC’s sustainable practices and contribute to a smoother green transition.


Title of the original article: Identifying the critical success factors for the sustainable development of the agri-food cold chain: when the strategic system comes into play
Log: Business strategy and environment

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