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Sustainable food: choosing from an exquisite menu

The food we eat is not only fundamental for our health and well-being, but also relates to our social life, culture, economic situation and the environment. To integrate sustainability in all major operations of the School, and particularly making it part of the 'student journey', the Stockholm School of Economics seeks to provide alternatives to the established lunch take-aways through a vegan vending machine. Read the comments of Misum researchers Friederike Döbbe and Ingrid Stigzelius on important attributes of 'sustainable diets' and the need for sustainable entrepreneurs that can mediate a shift to more sustainable food practices


Large scale agriculture and big business in the food industry is rather problematic in sustainability terms, as it is often linked to biodiversity loss, soil degradation and the dependency on small farmers as well as consumers on a few big companies, their price settings and vertically integrated food technologies. Alternative and more diverse agricultural practices and new entrepreneurships are thus crucial for sustainability in food markets.

"Did you know that 23% of total human-made greenhousegas emissions between 2007-2016 arose from agriculture, forestry and other land use (IPCC 2019)? 

To avoid business-as-usual in our food systems, change is needed from both consumers as well as from producers and distributors of food. According to the 2019 IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land, the “[c]onsumption of healthy and sustainable diets presents major opportunities for reducing GHG emissions from food systems and improving health outcomes” (IPCC 2019, p. 440). Surely, sustainable diets that account not only for environmental, but also for health, socio-economic and cultural components are a complex endeavour and differ across regions. One step towards this, however, is to include more plant-based foods such as grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, which are generally lower in GHG emissions than animal-based protein. As such shifts depend not only on consumer demand but also on the availability of respective options, SSE’s new vending machine is a brilliant example for how entrepreneurial ideas and responsibility can make a valuable contribution to the very much needed transition of our overall food system."

Friederike Döbbe, PhD student at Misum

Ingrid Stigzelius, researcher at Misum

“People tend to think of markets as an interplay between supply or demand, but there is in fact an overlooked dimension between production and consumption that could help to explain why we consume certain types of food instead of others. A focus on practices, as a routinized way of doing and saying things in everyday life, make up an important aspect to understand in the transition towards more sustainable markets. Instead of evaluating individual values and beliefs as steering the production of food, we would need to look at the food practices involving multiple socio-material actors that steer and engender different kind of consumption patterns.  

In my research, I focus on socio-material practices situated in vegetable gardens, food stores and kitchens, that work to produce green food consumers (Stigzelius, 2017). The lack of integration between practices in production, markets and consumption often hinders consumers to act consistently and sustainable across different situations. I therefore argue that sustainable consumption needs to be seen as a collective achievement - involving both human and non-human actors - across production, markets and consumption. New practices can then become enacted through mutual adjustments between different meanings, objects and competences associated with a practice. In this process, different kinds of market-consumption junctions (Stigzelius et al., 2018) could mediate the integration between production, markets and consumption and thereby enable consumers to act more sustainable (Stigzelius, forthcoming).  

As a vegan, waste-minimizing mini-market, the vending machine at SSE could constitute an important junction between food supply and consumption that comes into play in new ways amidst the students’ and staffs’ everyday lives at the school. As such it could mediate small, but important steps in the transition to a more sustainable consumption."


Stigzelius, Ingrid (2017). Producing Consumers: Agencing and Concerning Consumers to Do Green in Everyday Food Practices. Doctoral Dissertation, Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden.  


Stigzelius, Ingrid, Luis Araujo, Katy Mason, Riikka Murto & Teea Palo (2018). Kitchen concerns at the boundary between markets and consumption: agencing practice change in times of scarcity (Husmodern, Sweden 1938–1958), Consumption Markets & Culture, 21:4, 347-372. https://doi.org/10.1080/10253866.2018.1462174


Stigzelius, Ingrid (forthcoming). Agencing Sustainable Food Consumers: Integrating Production, Markets and Consumption through a Socio-Material Practice Perspective. In: Bali Swain, Ranjula and Sweet, Susanne (Eds.) Handbook on Sustainable Consumption and Production. Palgrave McMillan.

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