Professor Carol Richards

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Chief Investigator

Doctor of Philosophy (University of Queensland)

Prof Carol Richards is a food and agricultural sociologist specialising in sustainable food systems. She is a member of staff at the School of Management, QUT Faculty of Business and Law and was the inaugural leader of the Agrifood Systems program at the QUT Centre for Agriculture and the Bioeconomy. Carol is also the leader of the New Economies for Waste program at the Centre for a Waste Free World. Her work is informed by a systems approach that ‘joins the dots’ between the complex interplay of society, economy and environment as they relate to natural resources, agriculture and food.

Research Areas:

Food Security – Recent food system shocks such as bushfires, floods and drought, and the impact of Covid-19 on the harvesting and distribution of agricultural products, have drawn attention to Australia’s vulnerability to food insecurity. Carol is interested in the global and local dimensions of food security, including these ‘shocks’ but also the practices of diverting grains into biofuels and cattle production, and excessive market speculation on food commodities. Shifting from production to consumption, her interests include the growing reliance on charitable food relief, even when food is in plentiful supply.

Professor Richards was awarded $256,000AUD by the Australian Research Council Discovery Program grant to examine food system shocks in Australia’s horticultural sector, commencing 2022.

Food Waste - With the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals recognising the need to halve food waste by 2030, there is a perfect opportunity to examine the causes and responses to food waste. Carol's work analyses food waste as part of a broader system which requires a whole-of-chain response that moves 'beyond the consumer' aiming to render visible the complex interplay of culture, practices, institutions, waste management, governance and the political economy result in large volumes of food waste. Carol has received funding from the Fight Food Waste CRC to examine food waste in supply chains.

Food Governance - The governance of food safety, food quality, on-farm environmental management and animal welfare has been shifting from the realm of ‘the government’ to that of the private sector. Corporate entities have responded to neoliberal forms of governance by instituting private standards for food, backed by processes of certification and managed through systems of third-party auditing or multi-stakeholder initiatives. The realm of private governance presents a rich area for research on the social, economic and environmental impacts of corporate power and the privatisation of regulation along the food supply chain.

New Food Paradigms -  There has been much emphasis on building new food paradigms that are socially just, environmentally sustainable or regenerative, foster and build local economies and livelihoods and provide clean, healthy food to households and communities. Food sovereignty, alternative food networks and a re-localised food and agricultural systems are commonly viewed as central to fair food systems. Carol has contributed to this work through her research, teaching and civil society engagement. She has held committee positions such as the Vice-President of the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance.

Professor Richards was awarded $719,000 by the Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre to work with Lendlease to develop a prototype for a digital ‘circular food economy’ that addresses the connected issues of food insecurity, food waste, climate change and community engagement.

Qualifications 2007 PhD (Sociology), The University of Queensland, Australia 2001 Bachelor of Arts (Sociology) Honours, Class 1, The University of Queensland, Australia (2001 John Western Prize for Honours degree) 1997 Bachelor of Arts (Sociology), The University of Queensland, Australia

Projects (Chief investigator)