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Promoting sustainability within horticultural value-chains in Southern Africa: an investigation of a corporate-led sustainability initiative

Centre for Business in Society

About the Project

Coventry University (CU) is inviting applications from suitably-qualified graduates for a fully-funded PhD studentship. This project is an exciting opportunity to work at the cutting-edge of sustainability programmes within the global agri-food production sector. This is a Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) sponsored studentship. The PhD will be located in the Research Centre for Business in Society and will be conducted in partnership with the Research Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience.

Details of the PhD project

This multi-disciplinary, collaborative project will evaluate the sustainability outcomes of a programme that connects local horticultural producers with retail markets in Southern Africa. This project focuses upon achieving sustainable food production, which in the context of a rapidly growing global population, environmental degradation and climate change is arguably the most significant problem facing decision-makers in the world today. The research will investigate a programme which supports food producers in achieving multi-dimensional sustainability, including enhancing natural resources, mitigating climate change risks, producing safe and nutritious food and creating decent employment and economic growth.

The overarching objective of the research will be to better understand the outcomes of corporate sustainability programmes in order to promote better practices in horticultural supply chains.

Therefore, a critical examination of the programme is required in order to better understand the extent and type of sustainability outcomes that have materialised, and to consider how it could be further improved. Possible routes for enquiry include: deep-dive analysis of existing data and/or collection of new quantitative and qualitative data. For example, the project will explore the impacts of food production upon water management, soil health and labour productivity (SDGs 12, 13 and 15) as well as other proxies of sustainability. These impacts will be evaluated in ecological and financial terms in order to outline the parameters of the ‘business case’ for such programmes, which is a crucial consideration for its commercial stakeholders. Finally, the project will consider how corporations can better catalyse multi-dimensional sustainability within their supply chains.

Training and Development

The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

In addition, the successful candidate will be able to engage in the full range of activities available to them within the Centre for Business in Society and the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience. Such activities include: attending research seminars, participating in Doctoral Candidate seminar events, submitting posters for events and competitions, participating in the 3-Minute thesis and engaging within Research Clusters, such as the CBiS Sustainable Production and Consumption Cluster.

Entry criteria for applicants to PhD

• A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average. PLUS the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a 3.5 years
• a minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)


UK/EU/International graduates with the required entry requirements


Full-time – between three and three and a half years fixed term

For further details see:

How to apply

To apply on line please visit:

All applications require full supporting documentation, and a 2,000 word covering letter which covers the following themes:
(i) what you understand by the term ‘sustainability’; (ii) why sustainability is a critically important theme to be considered in agrifood supply chains; (iii) why retailers have a vested interest in promoting sustainable practices amongst their suppliers; (iv) your expertise and interests relevant to the project.

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