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Prince of Wales Junior Research Fellowship in Sustainable Consumption supported by Sainsbury’s

Society needs rapid, transformational change to reverse the precipitous decline of nature and accelerating climate change. Consumption, driven by an increasing population, globalisation, shifting cultures and increasing affluence, is a primary driver of the climate and ecological crises.

Reducing our carbon footprint and impacts on biodiversity can feel like an uphill struggle for citizens, but at the same time we expect choice and year-round product availability. Bananas, coffee, cocoa and tea, once luxury products, are now staples found in almost every supermarket basket. Supermarket retailers have evolved to meet this customer demand, offering large product lines and ensuring these products are available and affordable. Customers have become disengaged from the production journey, whether it be intensively-reared salmon or bananas shipped halfway around the world on atmosphere-controlled ships.

Supermarkets can implement policies and systemic change which make sustainable behaviours easier to achieve. They are powerful actors and their decisions can shape our purchasing decisions and determine which products we have ready access to. Combatting climate change and biodiversity loss can only be achieved through a significant change in human behaviour. For this to be successful the solutions must be rooted in an understanding of psychology and what enables successful long-term behaviour changes. 

 

About the project


Globally, increasing consumption has doubled resource extraction from our planet, impacting the natural world. Customers have never had more choice; the average supermarket stocks tens of thousands of products. Different foods – particularly protein-rich foods such as meat, seafood and legumes – have a wide range of environmental impacts. Better choices by consumers at the supermarket can help fight climate change and the loss of nature. Many citizens profess a desire to act more sustainably, but there exists an implementation gap. How can supermarkets help reduce this gap by making it easier for customers to act on their intentions? We propose to test promising approaches online and in stores to catalyse sustainable citizen behaviour. 

Emma Garnett , Prince of Wales Junior Research Fellow

Emma  Garnett , Prince of Wales Junior Research Fellow

Emma joined CISL in September 2020 as a Research Associate to work on sustainability in supermarket supply chains. For her PhD she tested which interventions were most effective to reduce meat consumption and increase vegetarian sales in university cafeterias. She has previously worked with several different academic institutions, NGOs and businesses including the University of Kiel (Germany), Microsoft Research (UK) and Zoological Society London (UK). More generally, Emma is interested in understanding how to equitably overcome economic, political and social barriers to conserving biodiversity and reaching absolute zero greenhouse gas emissions.


Biography:

Research interests

Emma researches which interventions work to reduce the environmental impact of diet. These projects span the natural and social sciences as well behavioural psychology. For this Fellowship Emma is working with Cath Tayleur and Sainsbury’s to improve sustainability in supermarket supply chains, considering the impacts on climate change and biodiversity.

During her PhD (University of Cambridge, 2016-2020) Emma worked with Cambridge cafeterias to test whether placing the vegetarian options first in buffets (changing order), increasing the number of vegetarian options served (increasing availability) or altering prices can increase sales of vegetarian meals and reduce meat consumption. This work was one of the finalists in a global Solution Search for behavioural approaches to mitigating climate change. Emma was supervised by Andrew Balmford (Department of Zoology), Chris Sandbrook (Department of Geography) and Theresa Marteau (Department of Public Health and Primary Care). Her PhD was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Emma has discussed her research in outreach events including the Cambridge Festival of IdeasSoapbox ScienceEarth Optimism and the Cambridge Science Festival. More generally, she is interested in understanding how to overcome economic, social and psychological barriers to conserving biodiversity and reaching absolute zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Career

Emma read Zoology at the University of Cambridge for her Bachelor’s degree; she then spent two years studying in five different countries for an Erasmus Mundus Master in Applied Ecology.  For her thesis she spent four months on the Galápagos assessing the importance of mangrove habitats for juvenile fish communities.

Emma has worked for a number of different academic institutions, NGOs and businesses. After her Masters she worked at the University of Kiel in Germany, carrying out research and drafting chapters for a book on conservation auctions and agri-environmental schemes. She has worked with the IUCN on the climate change vulnerability of lemurs; the Shark Trust on trends in capture and trade of Elasmobranchii; the Institute of Zoology London (ZSL) on the National Red List project; with Microsoft Research to model infrastructure failures for a British utility company; and for The Nature Conservancy's Mapping Ocean Wealth project, collecting data and developing a spatially explicit global model on fish densities within mangrove habitats. She returned to the University of Cambridge in 2016 to carry out her PhD on strategies to reduce meat consumption and the environmental footprint of food. In 2019 Emma undertook a 3-month placement at DEFRA and produced a report on the environmental impacts of bio-based plastics.

She enjoys teaching and was delighted to receive the Janet Moore prize for supervising in Zoology (University of Cambridge). 

Qualifications

  • PhD (to be completed autumn 2020)
  • MSc: European Masters in Applied Ecology
  • Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Other affiliations

Visitor at the Conservation Science Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge

Funding and awards

Finalist in Cambridge Society of Applied Research’s (CSAR) Student Award programme

Erasmus Mundus Category B Scholarship (covered Master’s fee and provided a stipend)

Clare College Godwin Prize for Life Science

Publications

Reports

Expert contributor: T Park (2020) A Menu for Change – Sustainable Eating for All. The Behavioural Insights Team. London, UK.

Expert contributor: M Spalding, R Brumbaugh; and E Landis (2016) Atlas of Ocean Wealth. The Nature Conservancy. Arlington, VA.

Peer reviewed journals

E Garnett, T Marteau, C Sandbrook, M Pilling, A Balmford (2020) Impact of increasing vegetarian availability on meal selection and sales in cafeterias Nature Food, 1, 485-488

E Garnett, A Balmford, C Sandbrook, M Pilling, T Marteau (2019) Impact of increasing vegetarian availability on meal selection and sales in cafeterias PNAS, 116 (42) 20923-20929

J Geldmann, [...] E Garnett [...] A Balmford (2020) Insights from two decades of the Student Conference on Conservation Science Biological Conservation, (243) 108478

F Bianchi, E Garnett, C Dorsel, P Aveyard, SA Jebb (2018) Restructuring physical micro-environments to reduce the demand for meat: a systematic review and qualitative comparative analysis. The Lancet Planetary Health, 2 (9), e384-e397

A Balmford, T Amano, H Bartlett, H Waters, [...] E Garnett [...] R Eisner (2018) The environmental costs and benefits of high-yield farming. Nature Sustainability, 1 (9), 477-485

F Bianchi, C Dorsel, E Garnett, P Aveyard, SA Jebb (2018) Interventions targeting conscious determinants of human behaviour to reduce the demand for meat: a systematic review with qualitative comparative analysis. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 15 (102) 1-25

T Jucker, B Wintle, G Shackelford, [...] E Garnett [...] N Murkherjee (2018) Ten‐year assessment of the 100 priority questions for global biodiversity conservation. Conservation Biology, 32 (6) 1457-1463

S English, H Cowen, E Garnett, JW Hargrove (2016) Maternal effects on offspring size in a natural population of the viviparous tsetse fly. Ecological Entomology, 41 (5), 618-626

I think David Bowie put it perfectly: I demand a better future. Society could be so much greener and more equal. We still have just enough time to avoid a climate breakdown and it’s going to take every sector of society to build the future we want.

Emma Garnett

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"Universities contribute to society through the creation of new knowledge and the development of new skills. It is our aspiration to do this in ways that are relevant and purposeful.

The Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellowship Programme, hosted by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, will help us to do just that by allowing academics to engage productively with business, government and financial institutions for society's benefit – both in the UK and globally."

Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge

Contact

Theo Hacking

Jake Reynolds

Contact research@cisl.cam.ac.uk for further inquiries about the Fellowship Programme or the application process.