Christopher Gaston

Associate Professor
 
 

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2021)
Opportunities, approaches, and impediments to environmental sustainability in the US pulp and paper industry (2019)

The adoption and implementation of environmental sustainability initiatives is of great strategic importance to the US pulp and paper industry (PPI). Not only is the industry subjected to an intense pressure to be more environmentally responsible and reduce its environmental impact, but it is well positioned to leverage numerous opportunities contained within environmental sustainability initiatives. How do businesses in the US PPI respond to this complex labyrinth of opportunities and challenges, and what approaches do they take? The primary motivation of this dissertation is to address these neglected questions. Specifically, this dissertation investigates opportunities, approaches, and impediments to environmental sustainability in the US PPI. First, I consolidate knowledge linking environmental sustainability initiatives and private sector business competitiveness in order to draw research implications for the emerging circular bioeconomy. Second, I identify and characterize businesses’ motivations for and engagement in environmental sustainability initiatives in the US PPI, and subsequently propose a typology to characterize diverse approaches to environmental sustainability. Finally, I examine and analyze regulatory tensions among businesses active and inactive toward environmental sustainability issues in the US PPI. Based on the empirical findings from this research, I suggest that while opportunities certainly exist, researchers must develop better approaches to assessing and measuring how and when environmental sustainability initiatives can simultaneously contribute to business competitiveness and environmental sustainability. This research advances our understanding of factors which influence the adoption and implementation of environmental initiatives in the US PPI, as well as opportunities and impediments businesses face when addressing environmental sustainability issues.

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Smallholders and contract farming at crossroads: the case of the oil palm sector of Ghana (2019)

There is a general consensus among development experts that developing economies can achieve key development goals such as poverty reduction, agrobiodiversity conservation and improved food security through supporting smallholder agricultural systems including their enhanced participation in contract farming. But, engaging smallholders in contract farming has been a major limitation of contract farming programs globally. This dissertation seeks to enhance our understanding about the factors that influence smallholder participation in contract farming. The extant literature on smallholder participation in contract farming is disparate and gives conflicting findings within and across different parts of the world. To address this issue, this research systematically reviews extant research on the factors behind smallholder participation in farming programs. Smallholder demographics, farm structure, smallholder assets and attitudes are identified as the main factors for smallholder participation in contract farming. The review also finds that smallholders with more assets and formal land tenures are likely to participate in contract farming.Furthermore, deploying the Theory of Planned Behaviour as an overarching analytical framework, this research examines the role of attitudes, subjective norm and perceived behavioural control in smallholder non-participation (abstaining from and quitting contract farming) and participation decisions in contract farming in the context of the Ghanaian oil palm sector. Three focus group discussions and a total of thirty-nine semi-structured interviews were conducted of which fourteen were with non-participants (nine with farmers who abstain from it altogether and five with those who quitted over time) and twenty-five participants (current contracting farmers). The results suggest unfavorable contract requirements lead to smallholders abstaining from contract farming while perceived lack of equity lead to smallholders quitting from contract farming. The research also finds that access to input and output markets is an important determinant of smallholder participation in contract farming. In addition, observed benefits and government policies also enhance smallholder participation in contract farming. Overall, the TPB partially explains the non-participation and participation decisions of farmers. These results suggest important differences exist between non-participants and participants in terms of their underlying motivations. Such differences must be considered for successfully designing contract farming programs that could more effectively improve smallholder livelihoods.

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Evaluation of socio-economic contributions from the primary forestry sector using material flow analyses (2018)

The competitiveness of the global primary forest products industry has been declining consistently compared with many other industrial sectors. This dissertation’s goal was to evaluate the performance of primary forestry sector in Canada and use wood utilization and allocation as means to improve the sector’s socio-economic outcomes. To achieve this goal, material flow analyses was used as the fundamental methodology to quantify a series of unit input employment and value added indicators to characterize the forestry sector value chains and evaluate socio-economic contributions.The substantial increase in the international trade of forest products required that trade data should be accounted for when quantifying socio-economic outcomes from national forestry sectors. A parameter termed the Apparent Industrial Input (AII) was developed to measure the wood fibre input at various stages of national primary value chains accounting for the international trade of various forest products. Normalized value added, GDP and employment indicators based on these trade-adjusted fibre inputs were employed to evaluate the comparative performance of Canada and fourteen other countries’ forestry sectors at various stages of the value chain. A primary forestry sector maturation pattern was observed as a nation’s commercial forestry sector developed. Nations that created more value per fibre input generally possessed a proportionately smaller forestry and logging subsector and a larger manufacturing subsector. A comparative study between Canada and United States of America (USA) showed that Canada historically had a larger proportional forestry and logging value added and a smaller proportional manufacturing subsector value added than the USA. It was inferred that Canada would achieve lower economic outcomes per input.Material flow analyses were completed for British Columbia’s (BC) primary forestry value chain and an integrated forestry company in BC. Both studies revealed the importance of by-products’ role in linking the wood products manufacturing and pulp and paper manufacturing subsectors. Two optimized scenarios revealed that by reallocating fibre flows, value added per unit of input for BC’s primary forestry sector could be increased by up to 35.4% compared to the base case. The enterprise level study also showed that material flow adjustment could increase the unit input value added.

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