Experience level: 
Intended Audience: 
Mónica Ramos-Mejía, Sebastián Dueñas-Ocampo, Isabella Gomati de la Vega

Exploring the ways in which food companies contribute to common-good-driven agri-food systems

Agri-food systems are characterized by a structure in which primary producers (thousands of farmers) are separated from end consumers (millions of households) by concentrated food-processing and retail corporations (Mylan et al., 2015). Here, a few large actors occupy a powerful intermediary position between primary production and final consumption (Carolan, 2016; Lang et al., 2009; Mylan et al., 2019). Alongside these powerful corporations there are novel companies that play an alternative intermediary role that challenges the current growth-driven intermediation relations by promoting alternative relations centered on collective wellbeing. An epistemic analysis of the ways companies organize contributes to exploring alternative configurations that challenge a capitalist economy at the center of social life (Ramos-Mejía et al., 2021). An epistemic analysis of organizations helps “to understand the reasons and the mechanisms that enable the emergence of organizations that understand themselves as parts of complex socio-environmental systems that challenge processes of commodification, growth and dispossession and to reveal the potentiality of these actors to advance towards alternative futures not driven by economic growth” (p. 13). Using game-based research methods, we have collected data from 30 food companies in Colombia. Our empirical work brings evidence of novel images of organization. Our research uncovers the ways in which alternative companies play a role of intermediation for the common good, promoting managerial practices that do not aim at economic growth, but at caring for life, both human and non-human. An epistemic analysis of these organizations has shed light on purpose-driven corporate strategies that may enable other futures in which care and collective wellbeing are at the center of managerial practices. This work makes three main contributions to organization studies. First, it progresses our comprehension of post-growth organizations from an epistemic perspective. Second, it suggests alternative images of organization that challenge the main pillars on which the food industry is currently structured. Third, it provides evidence of intermediation strategies to alternatively connect actors that are key to achieving greener, less commodified and more just food systems.