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    Sustainable business models in food waste management in the retail sector


    AGROCYCLE is a large-scale three-year project aiming to develop and demonstrate a protocol to deliver a 10% increase in agricultural waste valorisation by 2020 and to contribute significantly to the European policy target of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030, as well contributing to the wave of change that is occurring in China in relation to sustainability. This PhD project on the retail perspective of food waste will focus mainly on the following AgroCycle work package: Creating sustainable value chains and business models. It aims to investigate how cooperation and competition affect the evolution of Business Models for Sustainability (BMfS) in food waste management in the retail industry.


    Food waste is seen as an increasingly important issue with direct links to food security and resource management, as well as environmental, economic and social impacts. This study is funded under the EU Horizon 2020 AgroCycle programme which aims to reduce food waste by 10% by 2020 along the entire supply chain. The food retailer perspective is considered key due to retailers’ role to play in reducing food waste in their own operations, as well as supporting suppliers and customers to reduce waste.

      The traditional business model adopted in the food retail sector has been based on value creation through continuing economic growth (Jones et al., 2011).  Recent studies have started to consider the way in which retailers are adapting their business models, e.g. through food recovery (Giuseppe et al., 2014) and food redistribution (Alexander and Smaje, 2008), but to the best knowledge of the author, no studies to date have looked at the drivers of evolution of business models towards more sustainable models in retail food waste management. 

      Given the complexities of the retail food sector supply chain and the influence retail has over its upstream and downstream chain partners, the impact of cooperation is considered key in evaluating business model evolution in food waste management.  Furthermore, the field of business models for sustainability will continue to develop in importance as regulation, decreasing resources, climate change and societal influence drive competitive advantage amongst firms (Bocken et al., 2014).  This leads to the question of how cooperation and competition within the retail industry affect a firm’s decisions on business models for sustainability in food waste management, an area which has not been explored in the business model literature and hence, the focus of this study.


    ALEXANDER, C. AND SMAJE, C., 2008. Surplus retail food redistribution: An analysis of a third sector model. Resources, conservation and recycling, 52 (11), pp.1290-1298.

    BOCKEN, N. M. P., SHORT, S. W., RANA, P. & EVANS, S. 2014. A literature and practice review to develop sustainable business model archetypes. Journal of cleaner production, 65, pp.42-56.

    GIUSEPPE, A., MARIO, E. AND CINZIA, M., 2014. Economic benefits from food recovery at the retail stage: an application to Italian food chains. Waste Management, 34 (7), pp.1306-1316.

    JONES, P., HILLIER, D. & COMFORT, D. 2011. Shopping for tomorrow: promoting sustainable consumption within food stores. British Food Journal, 113, pp.935-948.


    Funding Body

    EU Horizon 2020

    Lead Organisation

    University College Dublin (UCD)


    26 partners in total; 23 from across the EU, 2 from mainland China and 1 from Hong Kong

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