Our global food systems create pervasive environmental, social, and health impacts. Impact valuation is an emerging concept that aims to quantify all environmental, social, and health costs of food systems in an attempt to make the true cost of food more transparent. It also is designed to facilitate the transformation of global food systems. The concept of impact valuation is emerging at the same time as, and partly as a response to, calls for the development of legal mechanisms to address environmental, social, and health concerns. Information has long been understood both as a necessary precursor for regulation and as a regulatory tool in and of itself. With global supply chains and widespread impacts, data necessary to produce robust and complete impact valuation requires participation and cooperation from a variety of food system actors. New costing methods, beyond basic accounting, are necessary to incorporate the scope of impacts and stakeholders. Furthermore, there are a range of unanswered questions surrounding realizations of impact valuation methods, e.g. data sharing, international privacy, corporate transparency, limitations on valuation itself, and data collection standardization. Because of the proliferation of calls for costing tools, this article steps back and assesses the current development of impact valuation methods. In this article, we review current methods and initiatives for the implementation of food system impact valuation. We conclude that in some instances, calls for the implementation of costing have outpaced available and reliable data collection and current costing techniques. Many existing initiatives are being developed without adequate consideration of the legal challenges that hinder implementation. Finally, we conclude with a reminder that although impact valuation tools are most often sought and implemented in service of market-based tools for reform, they can also serve as a basis for robust public policies.
Katherine Fiedler, Steven Lord & Jason J. Czarnezki, Life Cycle Costing and Food Systems: Concepts, Trends, and Challenges of Impact Valuation, 8 Mich. J. Envtl. & Admin. L. 1 (2018), https://digitalcommons.pace.edu/lawfaculty/1115/.