Loic Sauvee

Loic Sauvee is Professor, Management Sciences, and Head of PICAR-T Research unit, Institut Polytechnique LaSalle Beauvais, France. His research investigates the topics of food quality governance, implementation of quality management standards and managerial innovations related to quality management systems in food SMEs. He has been involved in several European research projects such as Q-Pork Chains, NetGrow and PIVERT. He is a member of the editorial board of Journal on Chain and Network Science and has published in journals such as Journal on Chain and Network Science, International Journal of Food System Dynamics, Industrial and Corporate Change, and Journal of Management and Governance.


Collective initiatives for the implementation of food quality management standards: analytical framework and international comparison

In modern agrifood systems, the development and effective implementation of food safety and quality management standards such as ISO 22000, BRC, IFS and other similar standards is crucial. The food sector, mainly composed of SMEs, frequently faces difficulties in implementing these standards. Indeed, there are many barriers to appropriation of quality management standards which make effective implementation difficult for SMEs, such as limited access to information, lack of financing and cognitive resources, food hazard perception, and insufficient access to adequately trained personnel. Consequently, one fundamental objective for practitioners such as managers, public bodies and development agencies is to help these food SMEs in improving their implementation capacity, which is usually done through the launch of different forms of collective initiatives such as associations, clubs, learning platforms, regional actions and other forms of collaboration. Globally speaking, the objective of these initiatives typically is to develop a step by step approach providing guidance on good practices associated with the implementation of these systems. More specifically, these initiatives are aiming to address the following tasks: the enhancement of the awareness in food quality management principles; the selection of adequate and competent partners such as consultants and coaches; the mobilization of the relevant services; the efficiency of the overall coordination over time; and the implementation of some global managerial recommendations. Nevertheless, the underlying hypothesis of these collective initiatives is rarely adressed, nor is it analyzed and compared in an systematic way. This hypothesis is rooted in a general idea of “network learning”: the capacity of SMEs to adopt new food quality management schemes is seen as a whole and necessitates mobilizing, at the same time, 1) formal innovation networks, which bring cognitive resources and institutional credibility, and 2) the practice by managers of informal network activities through interactive exchanges of information, benchmarking, knowledge transfer and translation, and experiential learning.

In this context, the aim of this communication is three-fold. Firstly, it is to craft an original analytical framework in line with the literature on innovation networks, managerial innovation, network learning and related learning effects, specifically devoted to the study of quality management standards appropriation and implementation. Secondly, the objective of the communication is to apply this framework to specific collective initiatives conducted in several countries (e.g. China, France, USA) in order to identify and compare the key relevant network learning effects induced at SME level by these initiatives which occur during the process of quality management standards implementation. Thus, the research will identify strengths and weaknesses of these initiatives using a common grid based upon sound theoretical foundations. Indeed, a better understanding of learning processes at the individual as well as collective levels, both in informal (interpersonal) and in formal (organizational) relationships, will provide insights into the major relevant learning principles and their possible adaptation to specific agrifood system sectors and to different national or regional contexts. Thirdly, there will be managerial implications derived from this analysis and the practical output will be to propose guidelines to stakeholders for these collective initiatives to better enhance food SMEs’ implementation capacity.

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