Sub-Plenary 2-6

The Future of Food: Navigating Sustainability, Technology, and Organizational Insight


Friday, July 5, 2024, 16:00–17:30 CEST

U6 Building – “AGORÀ” | Room: U6-P0-09 | Piazza dell’Ateneo Nuovo, 1 | 20126 Milano

Maria Chiara Di Guardo, University of Cagliari, Italy
Maryia Zaitsava, University of Cagliari, Italy
Giuseppe Delmestri, WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
Bernard Forgues, emlyon business school, France
Soh Kim, Stanford University, USA
       Nike Schiavo, Agricoltura Cellulare Italia APS, Italy
Matteo Vignoli, University of Bologna, Italy

This sub-plenary opens the floor to a collaborative and urgent discussion on the role organizational studies can have in contributing to the pressing quest for food sustainability. It brings together a diverse group of international scholars and practitioners to dive into the intersection of organizational studies, biotech, and human-centric thinking.

Food, in its essence, represents one of humanity’s most basic needs and rights – simply linked with our very survival. Organizational studies have highlighted that managing food can be viewed as a purposeful human activity, providing valuable insights into its effective organization (Holt & den Hond, 2013). By viewing food not just as an object but as an active agent in our systems (Moser et al., 2021; Shiva, 2016), we can better understand how sustainable solutions sometimes become part of the problem. For example, efforts to minimize carbon footprints ignite debates over high-impact foods versus nutritional needs, underscoring the balance between environmental goals and dietary health. Or, the push for seafood sustainability highlights the tension between marine conservation and seafood demand. Our current food reality is filled with inefficiencies, interspecies injustices, and unsustainable practices (e.g., Dyck et al., 2019; Shattuck et al., 2009).
Emerging technologies and innovations hold great potential to drive food sustainability forward (Friedman & Ormiston, 2022). Yet, there exists a tension between rapid technological transformations in various industries and the lag in the development of some promising food technologies. Specifically, biotechnologies, despite being considered revolutionary solutions for reducing environmental impacts, enhancing food security, and promoting ethical consumption, often remain underdeveloped and not scalable. A prime example is cell-cultivated meat, where market enthusiasm surpasses the current technological readiness, leaving room for organizational innovation and strategy refinement to bridge this gap.
At the same time, in a field as sensitive as food, hastily advancing technology can lead to unintended consequences (Moser et al., 2021). Realizing the technological potential for sustainable food systems goes beyond mere technological innovation. Specifically, in the realm of food technologies, the emergence of new product categories before they are even available to consumers presents an intriguing dynamic. Overlooking the human element in these early stages can lead to significant moral concerns about the implications and adoption of such advances (Gammelgaard et al., 2020). The importance of human-centric innovation cannot be overrated.
Key takeaways:

  • The main key takeaway would be for all of us to reflect on the critical role of organizational studies in shaping adaptive and inclusive food systems

  • Reflections on integrating insights from organizational studies to explore and understand the broad spectrum of outcomes from sustainable food solutions

  • Reflections on the careful and timely integration of technological advancements in food systems.

  • Reflections on prioritizing human-centric innovation in food technology development, without disregarding biodiversity

In this sub-plenary, we gather organizational scholars, biotechnology practitioners, and food innovative thinkers to engage in a critical discussion about shaping the future of food. Recognizing the deep interconnection between food, organizing, and organizations, our aim is to discuss food systems that are not only technologically advanced but also inclusive and sustainable, embodying the vision of the future of food.


  • Dyck, B., & Silvestre, B.S. (2019): “A novel NGO approach to facilitate the adoption of sustainable innovations in low-income countries: Lessons from small-scale farms in Nicaragua.” Organization Studies, 40 (3), 443–461.
  • Dyck, B., & Silvestre, B.S. (2019): “A novel NGO approach to facilitate the adoption of sustainable innovations in low-income countries: Lessons from small-scale farms in Nicaragua.” Organization Studies, 40 (3), 443–461.
  • Feuls, M. (2018): “Understanding culinary innovation as relational: Insights from Tarde’s relational sociology.” Creativity and Innovation Management, 27 (2), 161–168.
  • Friedman, N., & Ormiston, J. (2022): “Blockchain as a sustainability-oriented innovation? Opportunities for and resistance to Blockchain technology as a driver of sustainability in global food supply chains.” Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 175;
  • Gammelgaard, J., Haakonsson, S., & Just, S.N. (2020): “Corporate Scramble for Africa? Towards a postcolonial framework for transglocal development governance.” Organization Studies, 41 (9), 1213–1233.
  • Holt, R., & den Hond, F. (2013): “Sapere Aude.” Organization Studies, 34 (11), 1587–1600.
  • Moser, C., Reinecke, J., den Hond, F., Svejenova, S., & Croidieu, G. (2021): “Biomateriality and organizing: Towards an organizational perspective on food.” Organization Studies, 42 (2), 175-193.
  • Shattuck, A., Holt-Giménez, E., & Patel, R. (2009): Food Rebellions: Crisis and the Hunger for Justice. Tallahassee, FL: Fahumu Books and Grassroots International.
  • Shiva, Vandana (2016): Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply. Series: Series the Culture of the Land. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky.

Giuseppe Delmestri is Chair of Change Management at WU Vienna, Austria; member of the Competence Center for Sustainability Transformation and Responsibility (STaR – WU Vienna); current Chair of EGOS; Executive Board member of ASSIOA, and faculty member of VHB-ProDok. Giuseppe studies processes of categorization and evaluation.
Maria Chiara Di Guardo is a Full Professor of Innovation Management and Organization Studies at the University of Cagliari, Italy. She is also Head of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre (CREA-UniCa), and Director of the CLab-UniCa at the same university. Maria Chiara’s research focuses on how to organize efficiently the innovation process as well as the relationship between innovation and entrepreneurship.
Bernard Forgues is Professor of Organization Theory at emlyon business school, France, where he manages the STORM Research Center in Strategy & Organization. His current research interests include social evaluation, institutions, and materiality. Bernard is a former Chair of EGOS and serves as Senior Editor for the EGOS journal Organization Studies.
Soh Kim is an Executive Director at Stanford’s Center for Innovation and Design Research, USA. Soh has a research focus on food innovation, emphasizing sustainability, and design thinking. In particular, she uses a human-centered approach of innovation and design, so that food solutions come from customer needs, not only from the technology side.
Nike Schiavo is a biotechnologist whose work focuses on fermentation processes and cell line development for cultured meat. She co-founded Agricoltura Cellulare Italia APS, leading various science communication projects. Nike specializes in developing cell lines for cultured chicken meat, contributing to the advancement of this innovative scientific field.
Matteo Vignoli is an Associate Professor in Management Science and Engineering at the University of Bologna, Italy. He is a founding member of the Challenge Based Innovation initiative @ CERN; Responsible for Open Innovation @ Almacube; Academic Director of the Food Innovation Program; Trustee of the Future Food Institute, and global leader of the Future Food Ecosystem.
Maryia Zaitsava is an Assistant Professor of Organization Studies at the University of Cagliari, Italy. Her research focuses on the challenges and opportunities of the early stages of digital transformation and technology innovation. Specifically, Maryia explores dynamics related to proof-of-concept and the early stages of R&D.