Towards environmentally sustainable food systems: decision-making factors in sustainable food production and consumption

Annet C. Hoek, Shirin Malekpour, Rob Raven, Eli Court, Emily Byrne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


A transformation of the food system will require action and changes in decision making from individuals across the entire food system. This paper synthesises the literature and develops a framework for analysing the factors which influence decision making for sustainable food practices, with a focus on two key actors: primary producers and consumers. We draw on 66 review papers, which represent more than 5000 underlying studies, to derive those factors. The findings indicate that the inextricably intertwined factors in decision making are influenced by the characteristics of the person, in interaction with the characteristics of the more sustainable practice or product, which interacts with a particular context that includes the immediate environment (e.g., household, farm), the indirect environment (e.g., community) and macro-environment factors (e.g., political, financial and economic contexts). To influence people's decision making for sustainable food production or consumption, a wider perspective is needed on decisions and behaviour change, in which individuals are not targeted in isolation, but in interaction with this wider systemic environment. The paper ends by discussing what such a systematic perspective can look like and its potential policy and governance implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)610-626
Number of pages17
JournalSustainable Production and Consumption
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • food policy
  • Sustainability transitions
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • systems transformation

Cite this