The role of consumers in the transition towards sustainability. The case of food supply
The so called “socio-technical transitions” is driven by actors such as firms and industries, policy makers and politicians, consumers, civil society, engineers and researchers. This paper addresses the role of consumers in the transition process and their interaction with the established socio-technical (ST) regime. Then the questions that it follows to answer are: do the consumers can address for changes in the established regime? Which are the mechanisms hindering a transition driven by consumers? Is there a consumer innovation life cycle? The emergence of new designs in the established food supply ST regime will be used as an empirical test case. The conceptual framework enriches the multi-level perspective with insights from organization studies, both in industrial and social organization research field. The growing dissatisfaction for the established food supply, dominated by the duopoly supermarket-global food supplier, has driven few pioneers to search for new designs. To point out this innovative process of “bottom-up” innovation into the food supply regime, a case study is presented. The case of Italy illustrates several important consumer-related aspects of innovations and their influence on the established regime. In order to disclose the mechanisms moving forward the process of change in the food supply network, a number of questionnaires was submitted to informal network of consumers. Furthermore, in order to trace how consumers innovation in the food supply may evolve over time we propose a model which consists of four different phases drawn on the answers to the fifth question in the questionnaire (Past trajectories and future development).
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