Research

Broad research interests: Environmental Economics; Sustainability Transition; Circular Economy; Bio-economy; Green Finance; Waste Management.

My core research interest concerns the understanding of the mechanisms through which transitions towards a bio-based economy can be intertwined with socio-economic and policy aspects. Particularly, I have mainly dealt with the Sustainability Transition Theory in order to investigate structural changes in system structure, culture, and practice towards a more sustainable state, by integrating knowledge from multiple methodological perspectives (i.e. stakeholder analysis, social network analysis, discourse analysis and fuzzy cognitive map). My contributions appeared on some international journals such as, Journal of Cleaner Production, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Journal of Political Ecology, Economy of Regions, etc.

What follows gives you a flavor of my ongoing research.

How to promote a new and sustainable food consumption model: a fuzzy cognitive map study (with P. Morone and A. Lopolito).

The amount of food waste generated at the global level give rises to high environmental, economic and social costs, as greenhouse gas emissions, soil degradation, waste of natural resources, as well as economic losses for economic actor, inequality and poverty. Taking stock of these problems, in this paper we conduct an empirical investigation in order to identify and recommend the most effective policy actions and private initiatives that might modify the current unsustainable food consumption model in order to achieve a significant reduction in the amount of food wastage. Specifically, we perform a fuzzy inference simulation by means of a three-step methodology. Firstly, by analyzing the use of language within the food waste reduction/valorization debate we identified narratives (i.e. concepts, visions, insights, etc.) needed for the identification of system variables. Secondly, through interviews to a pool of experts, we map the causal-effect relationships among the identified system variables. Finally, by performing a fuzzy inference simulation, we identify and recommend those drivers potentially able to discourage current unsustainable consumer behaviors. Our empirical analysis shows that some policy drivers, as “Public food waste rules”, “Investments and infrastructure” and “Small-scale farming” are particularly effective in supporting a new and sustainable food consumption model. At the same time expert’s knowledge highlight the crucial role of “Biorefinery” in fostering this sustainable transition. This role goes behind a single private initiative proven that “Biorefinery” is seen more as a cultural movement pushing the circular economy, rather than a simple private business. This study supports the need for decision makers to treat food waste as manifold issue so as to consider the value-oriented vision of the whole food supply chain.

Shaping local government attitude to sustainability transition: the case of Gela refinery conversion into a biorefinery (with E. Imbert, P. Morone and E. Sica). 

World population growth, effects of climate change and ecosystem resilience reduction are demanding for a more judicious and efficient use of natural resources. This would require a paradigm shift towards sustainability. In this vein, promoting the bio-economy, is an important step in this direction (IEEP, 2016). This paper investigates how narratives used by landscape actors could have influenced policy developments in the process of bio-economy transition, by focusing on an on-going transition taking place in the South of Italy where a disused refinery is going to be converted into a biorefinery. Our investigation allowed: first identifying four complementary learning trajectories (i.e. storylines) defined by national actors operating through informal learning channels, then assessing the impact of these learning outcomes in the reconversion process of the Gela refinery through a semi-structured interview conducted with a key local policy actor. Several findings emerged from our analysis, and can be synthesised as follows: three out of the four emerging storylines combine environmental benefits with socio-economic improvements measured through new jobs, growth opportunities and restraint of urban waste emergency. These three storylines are also those that most effectively penetrate the imaginary of local policy makers, emerging as dominant learning trajectories in the Gela biorefinery transition process. Far from dismissing the relevance of sustainability, these trajectories show how environmental protection is a built-in concept in local policy makers’ state of mind, which, however, demands for a virtuous development process able to deliver “green growth” rather than “happy degrowth” especially in regions struggling with high unemployment and increasing poverty inherited from the fossil-fuel industrialisation era.

Untangling the different shades of green of the Italian forest-based sector towards a sustainable energy  transition (with A. Tani and V. Tartiu). 

Unlike the transition from a coal-based chemical industry to petrochemicals, where the availability of raw materials enabled the change, the forest-based sector presents the challenge of identifying the innovative paths that reconcile trade-offs regarding conservation of biodiversity, simultaneously use of wood-based resources. Ensuring a sustainable and balanced environmental, social, and economic development of the forest-based sector implies a parsimonious use of bio-based resources in a perspective of circular bioeconomy (Antikainen et al., 2017; Venkata Mohan et al., 2016), based on structural and functional changes of the system occurring at various levels (e.g. policy, industry, market, consumption, etc.). The biomass use for energy generation represents an important EU policy, aimed at allaying the effects of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels on the one hand, and improving the energy supply by means of energy sources diversification on the other (Nassi o di Nasso et al., 2010). Against this background, this study aims at mapping and assessing, through the lens of a multi-level perspective (hereafter MLP), in what extent the sources of pressure exerted at landscape and regime level, on one hand, and internal barriers at niche level on other hand, hinder the Italian forest-based sector transition towards a sustainable energy shift. The analysis will allow thus, to gain an in-depth understanding of the framework conditions influencing the transition, untangling the different shades of green (i.e. obstacles, limitations) for the Italian forest-based sector transition towards a sustainable energy regime.

Green investment strategies and bank-firm relationship: A firm-level analysis

In this paper, we investigate the determinants of firm’s green investment strategies in equipment for pollution control using micro-data from a large survey of Italian manufacturing firms from 2001 to 2006. In particular, we test whether the length of firm-bank relationship affects the firm’s probability to invest in environmentally friendly equipment. We found that a longer relationship with the main bank fosters firms’ involvement in green investment strategies in order to reduce their environmental impact. Conversely, the presence of multiple credit relationship could concretely hinder firm’s investments towards environmental innovations.