Faculty of Business & Law,
School of Management
BiographyDr Carol Richards is a food and agricultural sociologist specialising in sustainable food systems. She is a member of the teaching and research staff of the School of Management, Business School and works cross-disciplinary with colleagues from science, law and data analytics through the Institute of Future Environments. She leads a project that is designing and implementing Australia's first circular food economy on a residential community, working with partners from Lendlease and the Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre.
Carol's work recognises that whilst a sophisticated, global food system has produced and distributed large volumes of food to a growing global population, it has also been subject to critique concerning adverse social, health and environmental impacts. This is evident in public discourse around a range of complex issues, such as the co-existence of food waste and food insecurity, the rise of hunger and charitable food relief in wealthy countries, growing rates of obesity, market concentration (agricultural input firms, manufacturers, processors and retailers) and a new wave of global land acquisition by investors. Carol's work is informed by a systems approach that 'joins the dots' between the complex interplay of society, economy and environment as they relate to natural resources, agriculture and food.
Her current key research interests relate to:
Food Security - The 'perfect storm' of financial crisis, global population growth, climate change and peak oil has led to uncertain food futures. At the global scale, the diversion of grains into biofuels and cattle production, excessive market speculation on food commodities and adverse climate conditions have contributed volatile market prices and food price spikes that affect the world's most vulnerable people. At the same time, it is estimated that around 40% of food is wasted along the supply chain. Food security has a global dimension but is also an important area within the domestic setting as demonstrated by the increasing demand on 'food banks' in countries such as Australia.
Food Waste - With the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals recognising the need to halve food waste by 2030, there is a perfect opportunity to unpack the causes and responses to food waste. Carol's work analyses food waste as part of a broader system which requires a whole-of-chain response that moves 'beyond the consumer'. Carol's work aims to render visible the complex interplay of culture, practices, institutions, waste management, governance and the political economy result in large volumes of food waste.
Food Governance - The governance of food safety, food quality, on-farm environmental management and animal welfare has been shifting from the realm of ‘the government’ to that of the private sector. Corporate entities have responded to neoliberal forms of governance by instituting private standards for food, backed by processes of certification and policed through systems of third party auditing. Also emerging, are Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives such as the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, backed by major food corporations such as McDonalds and Cargill. The realm of private governance presents a rich area for research on the social, economic and environmental impacts of corporate power and the privatisation of regulation along the food supply chain.
Global Land Acquisition - Since the global financial crisis of 2007, induced by the US sub-prime mortgage securities crisis, institutional investors have actively sought new markets in which to invest capital. With a rapidly growing global population, and an increased demand for food, biofuels and forests for timber and carbon sequestration, land is increasingly regarded as an asset class. Much of the land targeted by investors is in economically developing countries where agriculture has not been wholly industrialised, land tenure systems are ambiguous (from the Global North gaze) and land prices are relatively cheap. Despite the social, cultural and geographical separation between investor and land, land acquisition is often framed in public good terms. Claims-making around the motivations for investment often cite altruistic objectives of ‘development’ and ‘food security’, which are at odds with the claims of local level impacts that include dispossession, forced evictions, violence and food insecurity as outcomes of land acquisition. Along with co-investigators on an ARC Discovery Grant, Carol's work has had direct influence on policies regarding the purchase of 'carbon credits' from an African land acquisition.
Social Movements/Social Licence - Carol is interested in local/global spaces of change, including the global divestment movement that operates as a citizen-led mode of action that aims to disrupt flows of capital that support the fossil fuel and other controversial industries.
New Food Paradigms - there has been much emphasis on building new food paradigms that are socially just, environmentally sustainable or regenerative, foster and build local economies and livelihoods and provide clean, healthy food to households and communities. Food sovereignty, alternative food networks and a re-localised food and agricultural systems are commonly viewed as central to fair food systems. Carol has contributed to this work through her research, teaching and civil society engagement. She has held committee positions on the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance and is a co-founder of the Fair Food Alliance, Brisbane.
Qualifications 2007 PhD (Sociology), The University of Queensland, Australia 2001 Bachelor of Arts (Sociology) Honours, Class 1, The University of Queensland, Australia (2001 John Western Prize for Honours degree) 1997 Bachelor of Arts (Sociology), The University of Queensland, Australia
- Associate Professor
Faculty of Business & Law,
School of Management
Business and Management
Field of Research code, Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), 2008
- Doctor of Philosophy (University of Queensland)
Professional memberships and associations
- Council member, International Rural Sociology Association (IRSA)
- Member, Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance
- Member, Right to Food Coalition
- Convenor (2010-2014), Australasian Agrifood Research Network
- Vice-President (2013-2014), Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA)
- Member, RC40 Agriculture and Food Research Committee of the International Sociology Association - Member, International Sociological Association