Reducing food waste through actor engagement

Tugce Ozgen Genc, Dominic Winfrey, Matthew Alexander, Jodie Conduit, Jonas Holmqvist, Juliette Wilson

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review


Food waste (FW) is a major contributor to the climate crisis. One-third of all food produced around the world is wasted and, if FW were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter (FAO, n.d.). Therefore, FW reduction has enormous significance to mitigate the detrimental impacts of climate change. Pinpointing FW reduction hotspots is possible with consumption perhaps the greatest opportunity area. WRAP UK (WRAP, 2021) estimate that to achieve SDG Goal 12.3 in the UK, 70% of the total FW reduction would come from homes.
Research has shown that simple practices entrenched into daily routines are often the main causes of FW therefore, breaking their inflexible nature is key for FW reduction (e.g., Mattila et al., 2019; Evans et al., 2012). However, given the institutionalised nature of practices this is not a straightforward task. Despite understanding the problem and appetite for a change there is likely to be a gap between intention and action (Evans, 2011). Fundamentally, responsible consumption behaviors that prevent food from being wasted remain marginal.
Gaining insights into potential institutional change around FW (Boström et al., 2015) becomes an important issue in the fight against climate change but research here is scant. We propose a special session to introduce two research projects (2 x 15 minute presentations) exploring this issue in Scotland, Australia and France with an opportunity afterwards for a round table discussion (60 minutes) on Food Waste and service research with the aim of developing a research agenda and call to action.
Study 1 – Margin to Mainstream: Using Engagement to change entrenched consumption practices around food waste
This research approaches the knowledge gap around FW and consumption by considering the role of Actor Engagement (AE) (Storbacka et al., 2016) as a potential mechanism of institutional change around food waste. AE behaviors create value outcomes at a systemic system level by affecting others’ perceptions, emotions, dispositions, and behavior (Jaakkola & Alexander, 2014). Aligned with institutional work (Lawrence & Suddaby, 2006), actor engagement behaviors have macro-level impacts on institutions by creating, maintaining, and disrupting (Alexander et al., 2018). Understanding this phenomenon requires consideration of various perspectives, a multiple case study approach (Yin, 2014) will be adopted through two organizations delivering national FW reduction plans in Scotland, and Australia. Multiple sources of evidence will give insight into how marginal FW-reducing practices can be mainstreamed through market actors’ engagement.
Study 2
This research studies the relationship between consumer behavior and household food waste. Through the lens of actor engagement, we identify targets for actors concerned with reducing food waste. Previous research has mainly focused on demographics (WRAP,2014), this research extends by studying how psychographic factors affect food waste (Barry & Weinstein, 2009). We use surveys and semi-structured interviews with consumers to identify how psychographics influence FW behaviors. We detail how organizations and institutions can build on psychographics to engage with consumers on a wider scale to make FW reduction more common.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2022
Event12th SERVSIG 2022: Reconnect, Rejuvenate, Reshape - Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 16 Jun 202218 Jun 2022
Conference number: 12


Conference12th SERVSIG 2022
Abbreviated titleSERVSIG 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • engagement
  • food waste


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