How do retail drivers contribute to investments in sustainability and the consumers’ perception?

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The role of retailers in the sustainability development is widely discussed, due to the fact that retailers are important change agents towards sustainable food systems. Nevertheless, little is known about how retailers themselves perceive investments in sustainability, this in order to fulfill a contradiction within the consumers’ perspective within the food retail industry. The contradiction refers to the wants as well as the desire for sustainability according to the consumers. Therefore, this research aims to fill this gap by studying the connection between drivers and the consumers’ perspective, in the light of investments in sustainability. The three drivers that are implied (internal, external and supplier relationships) are taken into consideration when food retailers make these investments. The research makes use of a qualitative case study design embracing the analysis of documents and a set of interviews with managers of a supermarket chain in the Netherlands (N=12). In addition, data triangulation is applied and therefore interviews with consumers and annual reports are analyzed as well. The analysis confirmed the existence of the three drivers. Furthermore, two new components appeared, namely costs and internal communication. The framework can be used to evaluate and investigate the retail drivers for investments in sustainability and the contradiction within the consumers’ perspective from the retailers themselves. Key words: investments in sustainability, consumers’ perspective, drivers, food retail industry, communication, costs.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen