Personal details

Associate Professor Carol Richards
Associate Professor
QUT Business School,
Discipline *
Business and Management
+61 7 3138 5313
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Doctor of Philosophy (University of Queensland)

Professional memberships
and associations

– Senior Fellow, Higher Education Academy (UK)
– Council member,  International Rural Sociology Association (IRSA)
– Member, Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance
– Member, Right to Food Coalition
– Convenor (2010-2014), Australasian Agrifood Research Network 
– 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 sustainable food systems, food insecurity, agricultural land acquisition, food governance and new social movements. She has contributed to academic and public debates on issues relating to power and social justice in the global food system. Her work examines some of the most critical issues of our times, presenting a scholarly and empirically grounded critique of resource acquisition and distribution.   Carol is available to discuss research, and postgraduate supervision, in the broad, social scientific areas of food and social justice, and specifically in the following areas of interest:


Sustainable Food Systems Modern food systems have been subject to critique due to the impact of industrial-scale production on public health, the environment, animal welfare 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 socially just, 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 and a re-localised food and agricultural system are necessary for a transformative food future that re-connects humans, nature and food. Carol has contributed to this work through her research, teaching and civil society engagement. She was involved in the establishment and operation of the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance – a rights-based food movement – serving the community as Vice-President. Key contributions from this work included the co-edited the People’s Food Plan which currently informs the development of fair food systems in a number of jurisdictions.


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 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.


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 invest 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 include dispossession, forced evictions, violence and food insecurity as outcomes of land acquisition. Along with co-investigators on an ARC Discovery Grant, Carol’s work has had direct influence on policies regarding the purchase of ‘carbon credits’ from an African land grab.


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 ‘the 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 social, economic and environmental impacts of the corporate power and privatisation of regulation along the food supply chain.


New Social Movements – Food Sovereignty and Climate Justice  – Much of Carol’s research relates to social change enacted through new social movements. This includes research into the emergence of the food sovereignty movement in economically developed countries and globally coordinated climate justice campaigns. In relation to climate justice, Carol  is interested in the complex interplay of local/global spaces of change, the scaling up of civil society responses and the global divestment movement as a citizen-led mode of action that aims to disrupt flows of capital that support the fossil fuel industry.


Interdisciplinary collaboration: Carol collaborates across the areas of sociology, business, law, justice, geography and development

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 Associate Professor Carol Richards.


Carol has taught in the following areas (Australia and the UK):   Business in Australia (MGN446); Sustainability in a Changing Environment (MGB310); HRM Project 1 (MGN509);  Introduction to Sociology 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; and Justice Studies (including Intro to Criminology and Sociology of Crime and Deviance)

This information has been contributed by Associate Professor Carol Richards.


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