Informing DEFRA’s development of environmental policy relating to climate change
Submitting InstitutionBrunel University
Unit of AssessmentBusiness and Management Studies
Summary Impact TypeEnvironmental
Research Subject Area(s)
Information and Computing Sciences: Information Systems
Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services: Business and Management
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration
Summary of the impact
Brunel researchers assisted practitioners within the Department of the
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to develop and explore a range
of climate change policy scenarios in agriculture as part of the UK
government's climate change strategy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) CO2
emissions by 3 million tonnes to 2020. This led to:
Environmental and Policy Impact through:
- the novel application of the Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping (FCM) technique,
to enable effective scenario modelling at DEFRA in pursuit of improved
management of environmental risks;
- enhanced capacity and capability within and across climate change
mitigation project teams and experts, allowing DEFRA practitioners to add
the FCM technique to their repertoire of futures modelling.
Practitioner Impact through:
- Improved professional standards, guidelines and training — along with
the development of DEFRA resources to enhance their professional practice.
Research conducted by Professor Amir Sharif (Professor of Operations
Management) and Professor Zahir Irani (Head of Brunel Business School)
over the last 14 years has explored the impact of decision-making in
manufacturing and service organisations. By investigating the causal and
cognitive basis for management decision-making in organisations, this body
of research has identified a range of methods to represent
inter-relationships between elements of management decisions (which are
often centred on causal links between management, employee, financial and
resource commitment factors). A pertinent research theme initiated by the
researchers between 1999 and 2006 (and on-going) has been to investigate
how investments in manufacturing, as well as information technology, have
been impacted by management decisions in UK-based manufacturing SMEs
(Irani et al, 2002; Sharif and Irani, 1999; Sharif and Irani,
2006a; Sharif and Irani, 2006b). In addition to this in 2009, the context
of carrying out such modelling of decision- making behaviour was also
extended to the public sector in terms of evaluation of electronic
government projects (Sharif et al., 2010).
Specifically, by using the artificial intelligence technique of Fuzzy
Cognitive Mapping (FCM), the researchers have been able to explore and
assess the inherent inter-relationships involved in a range of
decision-making scenarios across organisations. This technique, often
classified as "computing with words", allows inter-relationships between
objects, situations or outcomes to be described such that causal links can
The above work by Sharif and Irani lead to research engagement with DEFRA
in June 2011. This research involved a series of knowledge transfer and
"systems modelling" and "futures" / "scenario planning" workshops with a
range of DEFRA participants in order to explore scenarios relating to
common agricultural policy (CAP) and the effect that such agribusiness
policies will have on the UK farming industry and associated stakeholders.
This has and is continuing to identify has identified additional
techniques which DEFRA can use to develop environmental policy.
References to the research
The paper and hence research that DEFRA made reference to in terms of
engaging with the researchers was:
Sharif, A.M., Irani, Z., and Weerakkody, V. (2010). "Evaluating
and Modelling Constructs for E- Government Decision Making". Journal
of the Operational Research Society, 61 (6) : 929 - 952.
Additional papers which underpin this research are also listed below:
Irani, Z. Sharif, A. M., Love, P.E.D., and Kahraman, C. (2002).
"Applying Concepts of Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping to model IT/IS Investment
Evaluation". International Journal of Production Economics, 75
(1-2) : 199 - 211.
Details of the impact
DEFRA practitioners have used the application of the FCM technique in
order to understand and explore how causal inter-relationships influence
decisions and drivers relating to incentives to mitigate climate change —
and the subsequent downstream effect this has on the UK farming industry
and society in general.
Three workshops were delivered to DEFRA participants over 2011 and 2012
to show, enhance and advance the process by which DEFRA planners and
policy makers develop the agribusiness element of UK climate change policy
(GHG abatement at farm level). These workshops involved collaboration
between Brunel and DEFRA participants in order to shape and identify
pertinent farming scenarios, through the application of FCM techniques.
- Abolition of CAP pillar 1 in preference of pillar 2 payments (direct /
indirect payments to farmers).
- Introduction of a purchase tax on manufactured mineral fertiliser.
- Banning all types of conventional agricultural practices in preference
for adopting wide- scale organic farming practices from 2013.
The benefits of the research and the workshops are as follows:
Environmental and Policy Impacts
DEFRA statisticians, economists, operations researchers and project
managers have used this research to widen and explore the driving factors
which may lead to the abatement of greenhouse gases from the agribusiness
sector (i.e. farms, on-farm practices and the wider agribusiness supply
DEFRA can now carry out more effective scenario modelling through
knowledge transfer, collaboration and engagement between the Brunel
researchers and DEFRA in pursuit of improved management of environmental
This is based upon the "Climate Change Mitigation for Agriculture and
the Food Change Evidence Plan 2011/12" report by DEFRA and set
against the backdrop of proposed changes to the European Union Common
Agricultural Policy (CAP), 2014-2020. The context for the driving policy
factors are shown below in Figure 1. Hence, the impact of applying the
research techniques and expertise to these factors, are identified in the
light shaded ovals below, with the triangles signifying those aspects
which were used specifically in the knowledge transfer sessions with DEFRA
Thus, the engagement and transfer of knowledge to DEFRA has resulted in
enhanced capacity and capability within and across climate change
mitigation project teams and experts (which as a result of this research
and collaboration, has allowed DEFRA practitioners to add FCM modelling to
their collection of futures techniques).
According to DEFRA, this allowed impact in terms of improved "understanding,
development and adoption of alternative economic models (using
political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental
perspectives relating to EU/UK agribusiness policy)."
commented that through "an improved design / implementation of
environmental policy or regulation", the research impact allowed
DEFRA to expand the range of policy modelling techniques they currently
use and to put "GHG abatement/UK agribusiness farming policy and
behaviour into a wider context".
In addition to the above, the research has had an influence on
professional standards, guidelines and training — along with the
development of DEFRA resources to enhance their professional practice.
These impacts are significant given the size and potentially
damaging environmental effects of UK agribusiness: the sector contributes
over £80 billion in revenue to the UK (approx. 10% of GDP) and the food
system as a whole is responsible for 18% of UK greenhouse gas emissions.
The UK food chain alone creates 19 million tonnes of CO2 per
year (DECC UK Emissions statistics). Against this background, Brunel
research made significant impact through a) the influence on environmental
policy relating to the UK agribusiness as well as on DEFRA practitioners
leading to changes in environmental awareness of environmental products
(i.e. livestock, foodstuffs) and practices b) the usage of the FCM
technique in general within the climate change mitigation unit as an
alternative modelling technique that they can now add to their repertoire
of scenario planning and c) the potential to include the technique as part
of their practice of environmental planning across climate change-related
project teams within DEFRA (which involves upwards of 20 individuals).
The reach of this impact is in adding to the modelling of policy
scenarios that can influence how UK farming and the agricultural sector
may operate in the future and in turn how any future climate change policy
changes will affect the population on general. Through the facilitated
workshops delivered to DEFRA practitioners this research has enabled a
wide range of policy makers to come together and to think more
holistically about those factors which are important in changing
agribusiness practices, through a shared policy modelling approach.
As a result of this research relationship Professors Sharif and Irani
were appointed as advisors on climate change mitigation, agriculture and
food chain (appointment letters attached in addendum).
Sources to corroborate the impact
DEFRA's Operational Researcher (at the time of the research) has provided
a letter testifying that the research conducted by Brunel made the
Contribution to improved social, cultural and environmental
Understanding, developing and adopting alternative economic models;
Specific changes in public awareness or behaviours relevant to the
Improved design or implementation of environmental policy or regulation;
Influence on professional standards, guidelines or training;
Development of resources to enhance professional practice;
Practitioner debate has been informed or stimulated by research findings;
Research has challenged conventional wisdom, stimulating debate among
Shaping or influence on policy made by government, NGOs or private
organisations, and Enabling a challenge to conventional wisdom.