Avatar Image

Dr Carol Richards

QUT Business School,


Dr Carol Richards
Senior Research Fellow
QUT Business School,
Discipline *
Business and Management
+61 7 3138 5313
View location details (QUT staff and student access only)

Doctor of Philosophy (University of Queensland)

Professional memberships
and associations
-Australian Oceanic Network Representative, the International Rural Sociology Association (IRSA)
-Vice-President (2013-2014), Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA)
-Member, RC40 Agriculture and Food Research Committee of the International Sociology Association            -Member, International Sociological Association
* Field of Research code, Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), 2008


Dr Carol Richards is a food and agricultural sociologist specialising in food security, sustainable food systems, land acquisition and food governance. She has contributed to academic and public debate on topics such as food security, supermarkets, corporate governance, private standards, alternative food networks, urban agriculture and the acquisition of agricultural land in developing countries by corporate investors.

Carol is available to discuss research, and postgraduate supervision, in the broad, social scientific areas of food, and specifically the following areas of interest:  

Food Security The ‘perfect storm’ of financial crisis, global population growth, climate change and peak oil has led to uncertain food futures. At the global scale, the diversion of grains into biofuels and cattle production, excessive market speculation on food commodities and adverse climate conditions have contributed volatile market prices and food price spikes that affect the world’s most vulnerable people. At the same time, it is estimated that around 40% of food is wasted along the supply chain. Food security is a major problem of our times impacting on health (including malnourishment and obesity), and complicated by its global dimensions, poverty and international development, the global political economy, new and emerging forms of governance and the commodification of food and land. Food security has a global dimension, but is also an important area within the domestic setting as demonstrated by the increasing demand on ‘food banks’ in countries such as Australia. Carol’s research has demonstrated how Australia’s structure of welfare capitalism compromises nutritional security amongst vulnerable populations. With food often being the only flexible cost in the household budget (compared with rent/mortgage, electricity etc), many families miss meals to meet other costs of living.


Sustainable Food Systems Modern food systems have been subject to critique due to the impact of industrial-scale production on public health, the environment, farm animals and local economies (such as small-scale farms and food businesses). In recent years, there has been much emphasis on building new food paradigms that are environmentally sustainable or regenerative, foster and build local economies and livelihoods and provide clean, healthy food to households and communities. Food sovereignty, alternative food networks, sharing economies, urban agriculture, farmers markets and box schemes and a re-localised food and agricultural system are cited as key elements toward a transformative food future that re-connects humans, nature and food.


Global Land Acquisition Since the global financial crisis of 2007, induced by the US sub-prime mortgage securities crisis, institutional investors have actively sought new markets in which to sink capital. With a rapidly growing global population, and an increased demand for food, biofuels and forests for timber and carbon sequestration, land is increasingly regarded as an asset class. Much of the land targeted by investors is in economically developing countries where agriculture has not been wholly industrialised, land tenure systems are ambiguous (from the Global North gaze) and land prices are relatively cheap. Despite the social, cultural and geographical separation between investor and land, land acquisition is often framed in public good terms. Claims making around the motivations for investment often cite altruistic objectives of ‘development’ and ‘food security’, which are at odds with the claims of local level impacts that cite dispossession, forced evictions, violence and food insecurity as outcomes of land acquisition. Ethical investment and corporate social responsibility are important and emerging research areas in this field.

Food Governance In recent decades, the governance of food safety, food quality, on-farm environmental management and animal welfare has been shifting from the realm of ‘government’ to that of the private sector. Corporate entities have responded to neoliberal forms of governance by instituting private standards for food, backed by processes of certification and policed through systems of third party auditing. Also emerging, are Multi Stakeholder Initiatives such as the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, backed by major food corporations such as McDonalds and Cargill. The realm of private governance presents a rich area for research on the impacts of the privatisation of regulation along the food value chain, and with that a consideration of the social, economic, environmental and public health impacts of self-regulating food industries.

Fossil Fuels and Climate Change – Carol is also interested in the social, economic, environmental and health impacts of the burning of fossil fuels, and how civil society organises itself toward change. As a sociologist, Carol is interested in the complex interplay of local/global spaces of change, the scaling up of civil society responses to healthy, sustainable futures, and the flows of capital that support, or disrupt, fossil fuel extraction. This includes understanding the global divestment movement as a citizen-led mode of action that encourages the withdrawal of investments in coal and reinvestment in renewable energy.

Qualifications 2007 PhD (Sociology), The University of Queensland, Australia 2001 Bachelor of Arts (Sociology) Honours, Class 1, The University of Queensland, Australia (2001 John Western Prize for Honours degree) 1997 Bachelor of Arts (Sociology), The University of Queensland, Australia

This information has been contributed by Dr Carol Richards.


Carol has taught in the following areas (Australia and the UK):


Introduction to Sociology

Sustainability in a Changing Environment

Medicine, Markets and Health: Sociological Perspectives on Health and Illness

Qualitative Research Methods

Sociology of the Environment

Development and Environment

Geographical Perspectives on the Sustainable Society

Nature and the Metropolis/ Sociology of the City

Justice Studies (including Intro to Criminology and Sociology of Crime and Deviance)

This information has been contributed by Dr Carol Richards.


For publications by this staff member, visit QUT ePrints, the University's research repository.