Institutional work in food waste reduction: Start-ups' role in moving towards a circular economy

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Dealing with food waste is a major concern for the food system in the transition towards a circular economy (CE). Previous studies have developed various solutions to address the issue, but the role of for-profit start-ups remains poorly understood. This paper aims to analyse the forms of institutional work conducted by start-ups to prevent and reduce food waste. This paper adopts the multiple case study approach, utilising a three-year netnography of the emerging food waste reduction business and interview data from company representatives. We outline four categories in which the start-ups conduct institutional work: appearance of food, quantity of food, edibility of food, and living with food. The start-ups disrupt existing institutions that lead to food waste, as well as create new institutions to enable and reinforjavascript:void(0);ce their business operations. We argue that the start-ups have an influential role in changing the normative and cognitive-cultural institutional pillars in the shift towards a CE. The article provides a contribution to studies on the CE and food waste and has practical implications for both established and start-up businesses.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIndustrial Marketing Management
Early online date23 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Institutional work
  • startups
  • food waste
  • circular economy

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2


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