Incumbents’ Capabilities for Sustainability‑Oriented Innovation in the Norwegian Food Sector—an Integrated Framework
Journal : Circular Economy and Sustainability , p. 1–28 , 2022
Publisher : Springer
International Standard Numbers
Printed : 2730-597X
Electronic : 2730-5988
Publication type : Academic article
DOI : doi.org/10.1007/s43615-022-002...
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The urgency of sustainability transition requires large incumbents in the food industry to implement sustainability-oriented innovation (SOI). However, the high concentration of the food sector and the complexity of the sustainability concept make its understanding and overall transition challenging and slow. Incumbents would need to drive the transition by redesigning business models and practices and acquiring new competencies to integrate sustainability into their innovation strategy. This paper has a twofold aim: (I) analyzing the evolution of sustainability understanding over time and (II) evaluating the extent of dynamic capabilities of food incumbents to foster SOI. We developed an integrated theoretical framework combining the theory of dynamic capabilities with aspects of SOI and applied it to the case of the Norwegian food industry. We interviewed eight food incumbents and one food industry association, and we reviewed their annual and sustainability reports from 2016 till 2020. Key fndings show a high strategic activity in SOI, as well as a notable and industry-wide ambiguity about what sustainability means in the food sector. Most companies reveal both an adaptive and expanding behavior implementing conscious sustainability-integrated product and process innovations. Most innovations are incremental without a radical modifcation of business models. Some exceptions have been detected resembling transformative changes. Clear initiatives of moving away from a linear supply chain to a more systematic approach are currently happening through food system collaborations.