Towards more resilient food production systems: Implanting sustainability-oriented innovation

Vicki J. Little*, Maria Holmlund, Pia Polsa, Megan Naidu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Producing sufficient food for future generations is vital, however current modes of industrial food production are unsustainable. Therefore, sustainability-oriented innovations (SOI) must be implanted (i.e. purposively developed and diffused) into current systems, an imperative for cleaner production. However, the issues and challenges of implanting SOIs are as yet not well understood. Thus, the purpose of this paper is twofold: (1) To identify the tensions between social, economic and environmental elements in systems of food production from a holistic perspective; and (2) To propose new logics supporting SOI directed at resolving those tensions. Findings from an illustrative case study of New Zealand’s dairy industry uncover conflicts and rigidities, contributing a multi-level, holistic view of forces inhibiting SOI. At macro level economic priorities (export earnings and employment) are driving industry expansion and intensification, which are in turn eroding social license to operate as a result of growing concerns about pollution, animal welfare, and public health. At meso level, capital-intensive farming practices undermine land stewardship; as well as the welfare of rural communities and dairy animals. At micro level, farmer and dairy animal survival is contingent on the ability to produce, compromising physical and psychological well-being. The current driving logics of production driving unsustainable expansion and intensification are competition, growth and quantity, winner take all, and homogeneity. To support transition into more resilient food production systems suggest those logics should be replaced by sustainability-oriented logics: Co-creation, quality, diversity, and shared value.
Original languageEnglish
Article number135708
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Cleaner Production
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 01.2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoS: Competition economics and service strategy - Service and customer-oriented management
  • AoS: Responsible organising


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