How Do Existing Organizational Theories Help in Understanding the Responses of Food Companies for Reducing Food Waste?
Our research will contribute to the literature in several ways. For the first time, the issue of food waste will be studied from an OM point of view, focusing on the nature of food waste and its impact across food supply chains. A review of existing OM theories and newer theories borrowed from other disciplines that are relevant for food waste and sustainability issues in CFSCs is another novel contribution of this paper. Another novel contribution is the examination of how these theories can be used to explain certain observed behaviors of food companies. Finally, we also support future researchers by highlighting the scope for future research; specifically, we focus on some of the behaviors of food companies that need to be explored in further research and beyond existing theories. Thus, our research contributes to the OM literature, CE literature, and sustainability literature.
2. Literature Review
2.1. Circular Economy and Food Waste
2.2. Food Waste in Circular Food Supply Chains
5. Theoretical Underpinnings for Food Waste
The discussion above brings out some prominent theories used in OM and CE—the stakeholder theory, institutional theory, resource-based theory, paradox theory, resource dependence theory, and institutional entrepreneurship theory. This study will focus on these theories in the next section. Another important observation is that all these theories have been discussed in the context of CE, while there has been no effort to link these theories to the motivation of CFSCs in reducing food waste. This is a significant research gap. The next section contributes to the literature by filling this important research gap.
5.1. Applying Theoretical Underpinnings to Study Motivations for Food Waste Reduction in CFSCs
In the paragraphs below, we utilize our interactions with food companies to explain the applicability of common organizational theories for reducing food waste.
5.1.1. The Stakeholder Theory
Some principles on the application of the stakeholder theory to food waste can be borrowed from the sustainability literature. This theory can be used to explain some interesting behavior of food businesses engaging in the reduction of food waste in their supply chains. Several stakeholders are influencing food companies to reduce food waste. Based on our interactions with food companies, we identified that the government, via legislation, is one of the most influential stakeholders. Governmental regulations play a strong role here. For example, regulatory systems can force companies to comply with the regulations and hence help them reduce food waste. This is apparent in the agri-food industry, with European directives such as the Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point (HACCP) EU Directive. This regulation, introduced in the EU in the 1990s and modified in subsequent years, expects EU food business operators to put in place, implement, and maintain a permanent procedure or procedures based on the HACCP principles. Without an appropriate plan to avoid hazards such as the contamination of food with bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites, food items may cause several food-borne illnesses in consumers. The plan can include, for example, maintaining the correct atmospheric conditions (temperature, humidity, etc.) that might keep the shelf life of food long enough, which in turn might avoid them becoming waste quickly.
These regulatory pressures can act as barriers if companies perceive that these regulations are not effectively enforced by local/regional governments. Other stakeholders are also important for reducing food waste. Top management commitment and commitment from employees play a strong role in reducing food waste. Other downstream supply chain partners, by virtue of their position as customers, also exert pressures on reducing food waste.
5.1.2. The Institutional Theory
5.1.3. The Resource-Based Theory (RBT) and NRBT
5.1.4. The Paradox Theory
5.1.5. The Resource Dependence Theory (RDT) and NRDT
5.1.6. The Institutional Entrepreneurship Theory
Many of the theories discussed in this article have been developed in the past several decades using organizational, social, economic, ethical, and sustainable viewpoints. Among their diverse approaches, all of them point towards the enhancement of the subject being considered. Two main themes, namely sustainability and circular economy, are brought together in the 21st century to visualize our green future with financial and social prosperity. Our paper has discussed the theories and their contribution to CFSCs in detail; this can lead to several future research projects in the area of supply chains and to collaborations aimed at implementing sustainability and circular economy practices with societal involvement.
In spite of the support of these theories in explaining some observed behaviors of food companies, some other observations can not be readily explained using any of the six theories above. For example, we observed a strange behavior when we attempted to install some new technologies to control and monitor storage conditions of food in trucks. Since any new piece of technology (e.g., IoT sensors) installed in trucks can also track the location of vehicles, drivers were reluctant to engage in the installations. This negates, for example, the resource dependency theory. Similarly, when we can not support a specific request of a company due to technological limitations (for example, due to a lack of the availability of a suitable low-cost technology to continuously facilitate international shipments in multiple continents), the company did not wish to engage with us further for other parts of their operations. Similarly, another company decided not to work with us after their internal restructuring. We may need newer theories or borrow from several other disciplines to explain this behavior.
This paper contributes to the literature on operations, supply chains, and circular economy in multiple ways. Though the importance of food waste was recognized long ago, this is the first time the issue of food waste has been studied from an OM and supply chains point of view. We reviewed existing theories related to circular economy and discussed some newer theories that may hold promise to support a better understanding of circular economy. We used at least six of these theories, for the first time, in the context of food waste.
We are confident that the analysis of food waste for CFSCs will be useful to researchers engaged in theoretical studies of food waste and to policy makers engaged in food policy and circular economy.
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