Dr Martina Topić
The University of Alabama
College of Communication and Information Sciences
Department of Advertising and PR /

Dr Marija Geiger Zeman
Ivo Pilar Institute of Social Sciences
Zagreb, Croatia


Sustainability is not a new issue. Economists and environmentalists have advocated for change in the way we live since the 18th century, but increased attention started in the 1960s with an article by Kenneth Boulding (1966) about ecological problems. Economists, environmentalists, and sociologists also argue against consumerism because of its impact on the environment. Some critical authors argued that human civilisation is based on anthropocentric and liberal values that promote a philosophy according to which humans have the right to excessively exploit natural resources and that humans have the freedom to act as they wish when it comes to using the ecosystem (Krstić, 2018). The idea of sustainable development started to become mainstream during the 1980s and since then the debate has left a mark on politics, the economy and the general idea of what it means to be sustainable and preserve the environment (Agyeman 2005). Even though we are debating terms and discourses, which faced lots of support as well as critique, in this book we take the idea of sustainability as a lens through which we look at food and analyse issues such as production, preparation, consumption and representation of food. This also includes media representation of food as well as gender(ed) food discourses. In that, we are looking into the future of food production within an environmentally conscious and sustainable paradigm. According to Buttel (2016, cited from Hinrich, 2010, pp. 13-14), “the notion of sustainability reminds us that there will always be new ways that agro-food systems can be rendered more ecologically sound, more economically viable and more socially just”. Therefore, sustainable food is the key term of this collection and this functions as an umbrella term with which we cover various terms, organic food, fair trade, food produced/distributed/packaged in a sustainable way, ethical food, etc.

From the social sciences and humanities perspective, food is much more than just nutrition and calories. This is visible in many ethnological and anthropological studies on the significance of food in group and social dynamics, symbolism, communication and the development of culture generally, whilst sociology looks at food in the context of social class, social stratification, work and consumption (Clark Burnett & Ray 2012; Ehlert 2021). What is more, the categories of gender, power and gendered experiences are also part of this debate, in the sense of understanding sociocultural, economic and political meanings of food (Burnett & Ray 2012), as well as in complex relations between gender and environment, more precisely „women´s issues and ecological issues“ (Huddart Kennedy 2015). The more visible than ever need to develop sustainable food systems includes an emphasis on „the importance of considering gender at all stages from production to consumption“ of food (Bryan 2020). In addition to that, ecofeminism research has demonstrated that women have a long history of environmental activism even when they were labelled hysterical for attempting to protect the environment (Topić, 2021). Famous examples of women’s activism include the Chipko movement in India where women tied themselves to trees to stop them from being destroyed in favour of corporate interest and Kenyan ecofeminist activism of planting trees led by a Nobel prize winner Wangari Maathai (Topić, 2021). Therefore, we are also interested in chapters tackling women’s food production and sustainable entrepreneurship.

However, the question remains of how we produce food and feed the planet in a sustainable way. Over the last few decades, there have been innovations in food production such as vertical farming, aquaponics, plant-based meat, precision agriculture, 3D printed food, etc. All of these food production methods are trying to address the climate change in food production such as using artificial lighting and saving space when growing food as well as speeding up the process of food growth (vertical farming). Or innovation is used to grow plants and fish simultaneously (aquaponics) and plant-based meat provides a sustainable alternative to traditional meat; this form of food requires less land, water and energy albeit it is processed. Energy consumption, water consumption, nutrient leaks-runoff, costs of setting up and maintenance and the lack of biodiversity are things to consider in soil-free growing methods. Therefore, we are interested in chapters that address sustainable ways of producing food as well as chapters that analyse how this food is portrayed for example, in the mainstream media or how organisations that produce this food communicate and build relationships with publics.

The media are heavily involved in audiences’ decisions about sustainable food choices. In the UK, the right-wing press, for example, attacks veganism and vegetarianism with the most famous example being the Daily Mail’s attack on a bakery chain Greggs for introducing a vegan sausage roll and also generally negative coverage of Extinction Rebellion and other environmental movements calling them white and middle class, thus attempting to create opposition amongst working classes and BAME populations in the UK against environmental protection (Topić, 2021). Agenda-setting theory has been demonstrating since 1962 that the media set the public agenda and tells us what we should think about in its first stage and how we should think about an issue (framing). Therefore, studying media in the context of sustainability has relevance and media and journalism studies scholars are invited to contribute to the book with new research exploring the media agenda on sustainable eating. Moreover, in public relations, the Excellence theory has established a model of excellent communication between an organisation and the public, which is meant to be a two-way communication model (Grunig & Grunig, 2008). Many other PR theories explored how organisations should or could communicate with their publics and lots of works have argued that public relations tools and techniques could be, and have been, used for good (Coombs & Holladay, 2006). Therefore, we are interested in chapters tackling the role of public relations and communications departments in climate change and how public relations departments could shift organisational communication to support the climate change agenda and the environmental movement’s efforts to save the planet.

Chapter proposals are broadly invited on the following topics,

  • Media representation of food
  • Public relations and sustainability
  • Public relations, organisations and its publics in the context of climate change and sustainability debate
  • Publics and the sustainability debate
  • Public relations practice related to the sustainability debate
  • Public relations leadership in the climate change debate
  • Audience reception of media’s food and sustainability coverage
  • The production of sustainable/organic food
  • Innovation in sustainable food production
  • Food, sustainability and local entrepreneurial initiatives
  • Sustainability, community and local food production
  • Cooking sustainable/organic food as a gendered everyday practice
  • Ethical eating (veganism, plant based, vegetarian, local…)
  • Female entrepreneurship and sustainable food (organic, local…)
  • Online activism and sustainable food
  • Sustainable food as a discourse
  • Social class and sustainable food
  • Ecofeminist perspectives on sustainable food
  • Race and sustainable food
  • Food, food insecurity and hunger
  • Climate change and food
  • Communicating sustainable food
  • Critique of sustainable activism (e.g., focus on fashion vs food industries)

Chapter proposals should be sent to both editors,

Dr Martina Topić,

Dr Marija Geiger Zeman,

Christian Goodman,

Abstracts due: 15th October 2023

Decisions on abstracts: 15 November 2023

Chapters due: 15 April 2024

We have spoken with Emerald about this book, and we aim to submit a proposal once we collect abstracts and revise the current proposal based on accepted abstracts.


Dr Martina Topić is a behavioural sociologist and mass communications scholar. She is currently a Reader at Leeds Beckett University, UK. Martina leads the EUPRERA research network on Women in PR and previously she led a British Academy project on Women in Advertising. She is also a research lead of the #WECAN project (Women Empowered through Coaching and Networking) funded by the Department of Work and Pensions and the European Social Fund. She is the author of ‘Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Affairs in the British Press: An Ecofeminist Critique of Neoliberalism’ (Routledge, 2021) and a co-editor of ‘The Sustainability Debate: Policies, Gender and the Media’ (Emerald, 2021). Martina also authored and coordinates an initiative Comms Women promoting and celebrating women working in mass communications industries and her full list of publications can be found on her website.

Dr Marija Geiger Zeman is a Senior Research Scientist in Sociology at the Institute of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar in Zagreb (Croatia). She holds a BA (1997), MA (2005) and PhD (2008) from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (Department of Sociology) / University of Zagreb. Geiger Zeman is the author of many papers and conference presentations focused on socio-cultural aspects of sustainability, gender, body and age issues. Her empirical work is based on qualitative methodology. In addition to research in the fields of gender, ageing, body, etc., Geiger Zeman has taught at a number of faculties in Zagreb (VERN University/Business Communications Management, Faculty of Textile Technology, School of Design/Faculty of Architecture etc.). In 2010 Geiger Zeman received Annual Science Award from the Croatian Parliament in the field of social sciences. She is a member of the EUPRERA. In collaboration with Dr Martina Topić (Leeds Beckett University), Geiger Zeman researches gendered vegan experiences. The list of previous publications is available in the Croatian scientific bibliography.

Christian Goodman is a lecturer in business strategy at Leeds Business School, Leeds Beckett University, UK. He teaches Leading Innovation and Change and Business in Action modules in the undergraduate programmes in Business and Management and Business Studies. He is a computer animator and graphic designer by training and has been running his own businesses for 20+ years with his latest work being in drone photography and drone videography. He participated in a research project studying social class and views of higher education of PR and Journalism students in England, which was published in the Journal of Communication Pedagogy. He is interested in the history of innovation and eco-sustainability for the future.

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